24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

show me a business plan

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First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

Why? Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, and only include the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

I like this example because it uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

I like the example below because it uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

  • Your brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. 

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

I like how this business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. In my opinion, internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some of my favorite templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

I absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of my favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things I love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, I especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement  should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" and this example does just that. In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

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Every successful business has one thing in common, a good and well-executed business plan. A business plan is more than a document, it is a complete guide that outlines the goals your business wants to achieve, including its financial goals . It helps you analyze results, make strategic decisions, show your business operations and growth.

If you want to start a business or already have one and need to pitch it to investors for funding, writing a good business plan improves your chances of attracting financiers. As a startup, if you want to secure loans from financial institutions, part of the requirements involve submitting your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for writing a successful business plan.

You will also learn what you need a business plan for, tips and strategies for writing a convincing business plan, business plan examples and templates that will save you tons of time, and the alternatives to the traditional business plan.

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

Businesses create business plans for different purposes such as to secure funds, monitor business growth, measure your marketing strategies, and measure your business success.

1. Secure Funds

One of the primary reasons for writing a business plan is to secure funds, either from financial institutions/agencies or investors.

For you to effectively acquire funds, your business plan must contain the key elements of your business plan . For example, your business plan should include your growth plans, goals you want to achieve, and milestones you have recorded.

A business plan can also attract new business partners that are willing to contribute financially and intellectually. If you are writing a business plan to a bank, your project must show your traction , that is, the proof that you can pay back any loan borrowed.

Also, if you are writing to an investor, your plan must contain evidence that you can effectively utilize the funds you want them to invest in your business. Here, you are using your business plan to persuade a group or an individual that your business is a source of a good investment.

2. Monitor Business Growth

A business plan can help you track cash flows in your business. It steers your business to greater heights. A business plan capable of tracking business growth should contain:

  • The business goals
  • Methods to achieve the goals
  • Time-frame for attaining those goals

A good business plan should guide you through every step in achieving your goals. It can also track the allocation of assets to every aspect of the business. You can tell when you are spending more than you should on a project.

You can compare a business plan to a written GPS. It helps you manage your business and hints at the right time to expand your business.

3. Measure Business Success

A business plan can help you measure your business success rate. Some small-scale businesses are thriving better than more prominent companies because of their track record of success.

Right from the onset of your business operation, set goals and work towards them. Write a plan to guide you through your procedures. Use your plan to measure how much you have achieved and how much is left to attain.

You can also weigh your success by monitoring the position of your brand relative to competitors. On the other hand, a business plan can also show you why you have not achieved a goal. It can tell if you have elapsed the time frame you set to attain a goal.

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

You can use a business plan to document your marketing plans. Every business should have an effective marketing plan.

Competition mandates every business owner to go the extraordinary mile to remain relevant in the market. Your business plan should contain your marketing strategies that work. You can measure the success rate of your marketing plans.

In your business plan, your marketing strategy must answer the questions:

  • How do you want to reach your target audience?
  • How do you plan to retain your customers?
  • What is/are your pricing plans?
  • What is your budget for marketing?

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans . Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

Executive Summary of the business plan

Generally, there are nine sections in a business plan, the executive summary should condense essential ideas from the other eight sections.

A good executive summary should do the following:

  • A Snapshot of Growth Potential. Briefly inform the reader about your company and why it will be successful)
  • Contain your Mission Statement which explains what the main objective or focus of your business is.
  • Product Description and Differentiation. Brief description of your products or services and why it is different from other solutions in the market.
  • The Team. Basic information about your company’s leadership team and employees
  • Business Concept. A solid description of what your business does.
  • Target Market. The customers you plan to sell to.
  • Marketing Strategy. Your plans on reaching and selling to your customers
  • Current Financial State. Brief information about what revenue your business currently generates.
  • Projected Financial State. Brief information about what you foresee your business revenue to be in the future.

The executive summary is the make-or-break section of your business plan. If your summary cannot in less than two pages cannot clearly describe how your business will solve a particular problem of your target audience and make a profit, your business plan is set on a faulty foundation.

Avoid using the executive summary to hype your business, instead, focus on helping the reader understand the what and how of your plan.

View the executive summary as an opportunity to introduce your vision for your company. You know your executive summary is powerful when it can answer these key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sector or industry are you in?
  • What are your products and services?
  • What is the future of your industry?
  • Is your company scaleable?
  • Who are the owners and leaders of your company? What are their backgrounds and experience levels?
  • What is the motivation for starting your company?
  • What are the next steps?

Writing the executive summary last although it is the most important section of your business plan is an excellent idea. The reason why is because it is a high-level overview of your business plan. It is the section that determines whether potential investors and lenders will read further or not.

The executive summary can be a stand-alone document that covers everything in your business plan. It is not uncommon for investors to request only the executive summary when evaluating your business. If the information in the executive summary impresses them, they will ask for the complete business plan.

If you are writing your business plan for your planning purposes, you do not need to write the executive summary.

2. Add Your Company Overview

The company overview or description is the next section in your business plan after the executive summary. It describes what your business does.

Adding your company overview can be tricky especially when your business is still in the planning stages. Existing businesses can easily summarize their current operations but may encounter difficulties trying to explain what they plan to become.

Your company overview should contain the following:

  • What products and services you will provide
  • Geographical markets and locations your company have a presence
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who your target audience or customers are
  • Who will service your customers
  • Your company’s purpose, mission, and vision
  • Information about your company’s founders
  • Who the founders are
  • Notable achievements of your company so far

When creating a company overview, you have to focus on three basics: identifying your industry, identifying your customer, and explaining the problem you solve.

If you are stuck when creating your company overview, try to answer some of these questions that pertain to you.

  • Who are you targeting? (The answer is not everyone)
  • What pain point does your product or service solve for your customers that they will be willing to spend money on resolving?
  • How does your product or service overcome that pain point?
  • Where is the location of your business?
  • What products, equipment, and services do you need to run your business?
  • How is your company’s product or service different from your competition in the eyes of your customers?
  • How many employees do you need and what skills do you require them to have?

After answering some or all of these questions, you will get more than enough information you need to write your company overview or description section. When writing this section, describe what your company does for your customers.

It describes what your business does

The company description or overview section contains three elements: mission statement, history, and objectives.

  • Mission Statement

The mission statement refers to the reason why your business or company is existing. It goes beyond what you do or sell, it is about the ‘why’. A good mission statement should be emotional and inspirational.

Your mission statement should follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). For example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Make commerce better for everyone.”

When describing your company’s history, make it simple and avoid the temptation of tying it to a defensive narrative. Write it in the manner you would a profile. Your company’s history should include the following information:

  • Founding Date
  • Major Milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Flagship Products or Services
  • Number of Employees
  • Executive Leadership Roles

When you fill in this information, you use it to write one or two paragraphs about your company’s history.

Business Objectives

Your business objective must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.) Failure to clearly identify your business objectives does not inspire confidence and makes it hard for your team members to work towards a common purpose.

3. Perform Market and Competitive Analyses to Proof a Big Enough Business Opportunity

The third step in writing a business plan is the market and competitive analysis section. Every business, no matter the size, needs to perform comprehensive market and competitive analyses before it enters into a market.

Performing market and competitive analyses are critical for the success of your business. It helps you avoid entering the right market with the wrong product, or vice versa. Anyone reading your business plans, especially financiers and financial institutions will want to see proof that there is a big enough business opportunity you are targeting.

This section is where you describe the market and industry you want to operate in and show the big opportunities in the market that your business can leverage to make a profit. If you noticed any unique trends when doing your research, show them in this section.

Market analysis alone is not enough, you have to add competitive analysis to strengthen this section. There are already businesses in the industry or market, how do you plan to take a share of the market from them?

You have to clearly illustrate the competitive landscape in your business plan. Are there areas your competitors are doing well? Are there areas where they are not doing so well? Show it.

Make it clear in this section why you are moving into the industry and what weaknesses are present there that you plan to explain. How are your competitors going to react to your market entry? How do you plan to get customers? Do you plan on taking your competitors' competitors, tap into other sources for customers, or both?

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well?

Answering these questions and thoughts will aid your market and competitive analysis of the opportunities in your space. Depending on how sophisticated your industry is, or the expectations of your financiers, you may need to carry out a more comprehensive market and competitive analysis to prove that big business opportunity.

Instead of looking at the market and competitive analyses as one entity, separating them will make the research even more comprehensive.

Market Analysis

Market analysis, boarding speaking, refers to research a business carried out on its industry, market, and competitors. It helps businesses gain a good understanding of their target market and the outlook of their industry. Before starting a company, it is vital to carry out market research to find out if the market is viable.

Market Analysis for Online Business

The market analysis section is a key part of the business plan. It is the section where you identify who your best clients or customers are. You cannot omit this section, without it your business plan is incomplete.

A good market analysis will tell your readers how you fit into the existing market and what makes you stand out. This section requires in-depth research, it will probably be the most time-consuming part of the business plan to write.

  • Market Research

To create a compelling market analysis that will win over investors and financial institutions, you have to carry out thorough market research . Your market research should be targeted at your primary target market for your products or services. Here is what you want to find out about your target market.

  • Your target market’s needs or pain points
  • The existing solutions for their pain points
  • Geographic Location
  • Demographics

The purpose of carrying out a marketing analysis is to get all the information you need to show that you have a solid and thorough understanding of your target audience.

Only after you have fully understood the people you plan to sell your products or services to, can you evaluate correctly if your target market will be interested in your products or services.

You can easily convince interested parties to invest in your business if you can show them you thoroughly understand the market and show them that there is a market for your products or services.

How to Quantify Your Target Market

One of the goals of your marketing research is to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing power. To quantify your target market, you have to determine the following:

  • Your Potential Customers: They are the people you plan to target. For example, if you sell accounting software for small businesses , then anyone who runs an enterprise or large business is unlikely to be your customers. Also, individuals who do not have a business will most likely not be interested in your product.
  • Total Households: If you are selling household products such as heating and air conditioning systems, determining the number of total households is more important than finding out the total population in the area you want to sell to. The logic is simple, people buy the product but it is the household that uses it.
  • Median Income: You need to know the median income of your target market. If you target a market that cannot afford to buy your products and services, your business will not last long.
  • Income by Demographics: If your potential customers belong to a certain age group or gender, determining income levels by demographics is necessary. For example, if you sell men's clothes, your target audience is men.

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

Your business does not exist on its own, it can only flourish within an industry and alongside competitors. Market analysis takes into consideration your industry, target market, and competitors. Understanding these three entities will drastically improve your company’s chances of success.

Market Analysis Steps

You can view your market analysis as an examination of the market you want to break into and an education on the emerging trends and themes in that market. Good market analyses include the following:

  • Industry Description. You find out about the history of your industry, the current and future market size, and who the largest players/companies are in your industry.
  • Overview of Target Market. You research your target market and its characteristics. Who are you targeting? Note, it cannot be everyone, it has to be a specific group. You also have to find out all information possible about your customers that can help you understand how and why they make buying decisions.
  • Size of Target Market: You need to know the size of your target market, how frequently they buy, and the expected quantity they buy so you do not risk overproducing and having lots of bad inventory. Researching the size of your target market will help you determine if it is big enough for sustained business or not.
  • Growth Potential: Before picking a target market, you want to be sure there are lots of potential for future growth. You want to avoid going for an industry that is declining slowly or rapidly with almost zero growth potential.
  • Market Share Potential: Does your business stand a good chance of taking a good share of the market?
  • Market Pricing and Promotional Strategies: Your market analysis should give you an idea of the price point you can expect to charge for your products and services. Researching your target market will also give you ideas of pricing strategies you can implement to break into the market or to enjoy maximum profits.
  • Potential Barriers to Entry: One of the biggest benefits of conducting market analysis is that it shows you every potential barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. It is a good idea to discuss potential barriers to entry such as changing technology. It informs readers of your business plan that you understand the market.
  • Research on Competitors: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you can exploit them for the benefit of your business. Find patterns and trends among your competitors that make them successful, discover what works and what doesn’t, and see what you can do better.

The market analysis section is not just for talking about your target market, industry, and competitors. You also have to explain how your company can fill the hole you have identified in the market.

Here are some questions you can answer that can help you position your product or service in a positive light to your readers.

  • Is your product or service of superior quality?
  • What additional features do you offer that your competitors do not offer?
  • Are you targeting a ‘new’ market?

Basically, your market analysis should include an analysis of what already exists in the market and an explanation of how your company fits into the market.

Competitive Analysis

In the competitive analysis section, y ou have to understand who your direct and indirect competitions are, and how successful they are in the marketplace. It is the section where you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the advantage(s) they possess in the market and show the unique features or qualities that make you different from your competitors.

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

Many businesses do market analysis and competitive analysis together. However, to fully understand what the competitive analysis entails, it is essential to separate it from the market analysis.

Competitive analysis for your business can also include analysis on how to overcome barriers to entry in your target market.

The primary goal of conducting a competitive analysis is to distinguish your business from your competitors. A strong competitive analysis is essential if you want to convince potential funding sources to invest in your business. You have to show potential investors and lenders that your business has what it takes to compete in the marketplace successfully.

Competitive analysis will s how you what the strengths of your competition are and what they are doing to maintain that advantage.

When doing your competitive research, you first have to identify your competitor and then get all the information you can about them. The idea of spending time to identify your competitor and learn everything about them may seem daunting but it is well worth it.

Find answers to the following questions after you have identified who your competitors are.

  • What are your successful competitors doing?
  • Why is what they are doing working?
  • Can your business do it better?
  • What are the weaknesses of your successful competitors?
  • What are they not doing well?
  • Can your business turn its weaknesses into strengths?
  • How good is your competitors’ customer service?
  • Where do your competitors invest in advertising?
  • What sales and pricing strategies are they using?
  • What marketing strategies are they using?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • What are their customers saying about your competitors (both the positive and negative)?

If your competitors have a website, it is a good idea to visit their websites for more competitors’ research. Check their “About Us” page for more information.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

If you are presenting your business plan to investors, you need to clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Investors can easily tell when you have not properly researched your competitors.

Take time to think about what unique qualities or features set you apart from your competitors. If you do not have any direct competition offering your product to the market, it does not mean you leave out the competitor analysis section blank. Instead research on other companies that are providing a similar product, or whose product is solving the problem your product solves.

The next step is to create a table listing the top competitors you want to include in your business plan. Ensure you list your business as the last and on the right. What you just created is known as the competitor analysis table.

Direct vs Indirect Competition

You cannot know if your product or service will be a fit for your target market if you have not understood your business and the competitive landscape.

There is no market you want to target where you will not encounter competition, even if your product is innovative. Including competitive analysis in your business plan is essential.

If you are entering an established market, you need to explain how you plan to differentiate your products from the available options in the market. Also, include a list of few companies that you view as your direct competitors The competition you face in an established market is your direct competition.

In situations where you are entering a market with no direct competition, it does not mean there is no competition there. Consider your indirect competition that offers substitutes for the products or services you offer.

For example, if you sell an innovative SaaS product, let us say a project management software , a company offering time management software is your indirect competition.

There is an easy way to find out who your indirect competitors are in the absence of no direct competitors. You simply have to research how your potential customers are solving the problems that your product or service seeks to solve. That is your direct competition.

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

There are three main factors that any business can use to differentiate itself from its competition. They are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.

1. Cost Leadership

A strategy you can impose to maximize your profits and gain an edge over your competitors. It involves offering lower prices than what the majority of your competitors are offering.

A common practice among businesses looking to enter into a market where there are dominant players is to use free trials or pricing to attract as many customers as possible to their offer.

2. Product Differentiation

Your product or service should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that your competitors do not have or do not stress in their marketing.

Part of the marketing strategy should involve making your products unique and different from your competitors. It does not have to be different from your competitors, it can be the addition to a feature or benefit that your competitors do not currently have.

3. Market Segmentation

As a new business seeking to break into an industry, you will gain more success from focusing on a specific niche or target market, and not the whole industry.

If your competitors are focused on a general need or target market, you can differentiate yourself from them by having a small and hyper-targeted audience. For example, if your competitors are selling men’s clothes in their online stores , you can sell hoodies for men.

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

The next step in your business plan is your business and management structure. It is the section where you describe the legal structure of your business and the team running it.

Your business is only as good as the management team that runs it, while the management team can only strive when there is a proper business and management structure in place.

If your company is a sole proprietor or a limited liability company (LLC), a general or limited partnership, or a C or an S corporation, state it clearly in this section.

Use an organizational chart to show the management structure in your business. Clearly show who is in charge of what area in your company. It is where you show how each key manager or team leader’s unique experience can contribute immensely to the success of your company. You can also opt to add the resumes and CVs of the key players in your company.

The business and management structure section should show who the owner is, and other owners of the businesses (if the business has other owners). For businesses or companies with multiple owners, include the percent ownership of the various owners and clearly show the extent of each others’ involvement in the company.

Investors want to know who is behind the company and the team running it to determine if it has the right management to achieve its set goals.

Management Team

The management team section is where you show that you have the right team in place to successfully execute the business operations and ideas. Take time to create the management structure for your business. Think about all the important roles and responsibilities that you need managers for to grow your business.

Include brief bios of each key team member and ensure you highlight only the relevant information that is needed. If your team members have background industry experience or have held top positions for other companies and achieved success while filling that role, highlight it in this section.

Create Management Team For Business Plan

A common mistake that many startups make is assigning C-level titles such as (CMO and CEO) to everyone on their team. It is unrealistic for a small business to have those titles. While it may look good on paper for the ego of your team members, it can prevent investors from investing in your business.

Instead of building an unrealistic management structure that does not fit your business reality, it is best to allow business titles to grow as the business grows. Starting everyone at the top leaves no room for future change or growth, which is bad for productivity.

Your management team does not have to be complete before you start writing your business plan. You can have a complete business plan even when there are managerial positions that are empty and need filling.

If you have management gaps in your team, simply show the gaps and indicate you are searching for the right candidates for the role(s). Investors do not expect you to have a full management team when you are just starting your business.

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

  • Who are the key leaders?
  • What experiences, skills, and educational backgrounds do you expect your key leaders to have?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience?
  • What positions will they fill and what duties will they perform in those positions?
  • What level of authority do the key leaders have and what are their responsibilities?
  • What is the salary for the various management positions that will attract the ideal candidates?

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

1. Avoid Adding ‘Ghost’ Names to Your Management Team

There is always that temptation to include a ‘ghost’ name to your management team to attract and influence investors to invest in your business. Although the presence of these celebrity management team members may attract the attention of investors, it can cause your business to lose any credibility if you get found out.

Seasoned investors will investigate further the members of your management team before committing fully to your business If they find out that the celebrity name used does not play any actual role in your business, they will not invest and may write you off as dishonest.

2. Focus on Credentials But Pay Extra Attention to the Roles

Investors want to know the experience that your key team members have to determine if they can successfully reach the company’s growth and financial goals.

While it is an excellent boost for your key management team to have the right credentials, you also want to pay extra attention to the roles they will play in your company.

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

Adding an organizational chart in this section of your business plan is not necessary, you can do it in your business plan’s appendix.

If you are exploring funding options, it is not uncommon to get asked for your organizational chart. The function of an organizational chart goes beyond raising money, you can also use it as a useful planning tool for your business.

An organizational chart can help you identify how best to structure your management team for maximum productivity and point you towards key roles you need to fill in the future.

You can use the organizational chart to show your company’s internal management structure such as the roles and responsibilities of your management team, and relationships that exist between them.

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

In your business plan, you have to describe what you sell or the service you plan to offer. It is the next step after defining your business and management structure. The products and services section is where you sell the benefits of your business.

Here you have to explain how your product or service will benefit your customers and describe your product lifecycle. It is also the section where you write down your plans for intellectual property like patent filings and copyrighting.

The research and development that you are undertaking for your product or service need to be explained in detail in this section. However, do not get too technical, sell the general idea and its benefits.

If you have any diagrams or intricate designs of your product or service, do not include them in the products and services section. Instead, leave them for the addendum page. Also, if you are leaving out diagrams or designs for the addendum, ensure you add this phrase “For more detail, visit the addendum Page #.”

Your product and service section in your business plan should include the following:

  • A detailed explanation that clearly shows how your product or service works.
  • The pricing model for your product or service.
  • Your business’ sales and distribution strategy.
  • The ideal customers that want your product or service.
  • The benefits of your products and services.
  • Reason(s) why your product or service is a better alternative to what your competitors are currently offering in the market.
  • Plans for filling the orders you receive
  • If you have current or pending patents, copyrights, and trademarks for your product or service, you can also discuss them in this section.

What to Focus On When Describing the Benefits, Lifecycle, and Production Process of Your Products or Services

In the products and services section, you have to distill the benefits, lifecycle, and production process of your products and services.

When describing the benefits of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Unique features
  • Translating the unique features into benefits
  • The emotional, psychological, and practical payoffs to attract customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents

When describing the product life cycle of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Upsells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Time between purchases
  • Plans for research and development.

When describing the production process for your products or services, you need to think about the following:

  • The creation of new or existing products and services.
  • The sources for the raw materials or components you need for production.
  • Assembling the products
  • Maintaining quality control
  • Supply-chain logistics (receiving the raw materials and delivering the finished products)
  • The day-to-day management of the production processes, bookkeeping, and inventory.

Tips for Writing the Products or Services Section of Your Business Plan

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

The products and services section of your business plan should clearly describe the products and services that your company provides. However, it is not a section to include technical jargons that anyone outside your industry will not understand.

A good practice is to remove highly detailed or technical descriptions in favor of simple terms. Industry buzzwords are not necessary, if there are simpler terms you can use, then use them. If you plan to use your business plan to source funds, making the product or service section so technical will do you no favors.

2. Describe How Your Products or Services Differ from Your Competitors

When potential investors look at your business plan, they want to know how the products and services you are offering differ from that of your competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competition in a way that makes your solution more attractive is critical.

If you are going the innovative path and there is no market currently for your product or service, you need to describe in this section why the market needs your product or service.

For example, overnight delivery was a niche business that only a few companies were participating in. Federal Express (FedEx) had to show in its business plan that there was a large opportunity for that service and they justified why the market needed that service.

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

Should your products or services section be short? Does the long products or services section attract more investors?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. Whether your products or services section should be long or relatively short depends on the nature of your business.

If your business is product-focused, then automatically you need to use more space to describe the details of your products. However, if the product your business sells is a commodity item that relies on competitive pricing or other pricing strategies, you do not have to use up so much space to provide significant details about the product.

Likewise, if you are selling a commodity that is available in numerous outlets, then you do not have to spend time on writing a long products or services section.

The key to the success of your business is most likely the effectiveness of your marketing strategies compared to your competitors. Use more space to address that section.

If you are creating a new product or service that the market does not know about, your products or services section can be lengthy. The reason why is because you need to explain everything about the product or service such as the nature of the product, its use case, and values.

A short products or services section for an innovative product or service will not give the readers enough information to properly evaluate your business.

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

Your business will rely on vendors or suppliers to supply raw materials or the components needed to make your products. In your products and services section, describe your relationships with your vendors and suppliers fully.

Avoid the mistake of relying on only one supplier or vendor. If that supplier or vendor fails to supply or goes out of business, you can easily face supply problems and struggle to meet your demands. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships for better business stability.

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

The primary goal of your business plan is to convince your readers that your business is viable and to create a guide for your business to follow. It applies to the products and services section.

When drafting this section, think like the reader. See your reader as someone who has no idea about your products and services. You are using the products and services section to provide the needed information to help your reader understand your products and services. As a result, you have to be clear and to the point.

While you want to educate your readers about your products or services, you also do not want to bore them with lots of technical details. Show your products and services and not your fancy choice of words.

Your products and services section should provide the answer to the “what” question for your business. You and your management team may run the business, but it is your products and services that are the lifeblood of the business.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

Answering these questions can help you write your products and services section quickly and in a way that will appeal to your readers.

  • Are your products existing on the market or are they still in the development stage?
  • What is your timeline for adding new products and services to the market?
  • What are the positives that make your products and services different from your competitors?
  • Do your products and services have any competitive advantage that your competitors’ products and services do not currently have?
  • Do your products or services have any competitive disadvantages that you need to overcome to compete with your competitors? If your answer is yes, state how you plan to overcome them,
  • How much does it cost to produce your products or services? How much do you plan to sell it for?
  • What is the price for your products and services compared to your competitors? Is pricing an issue?
  • What are your operating costs and will it be low enough for you to compete with your competitors and still take home a reasonable profit margin?
  • What is your plan for acquiring your products? Are you involved in the production of your products or services?
  • Are you the manufacturer and produce all the components you need to create your products? Do you assemble your products by using components supplied by other manufacturers? Do you purchase your products directly from suppliers or wholesalers?
  • Do you have a steady supply of products that you need to start your business? (If your business is yet to kick-off)
  • How do you plan to distribute your products or services to the market?

You can also hint at the marketing or promotion plans you have for your products or services such as how you plan to build awareness or retain customers. The next section is where you can go fully into details about your business’s marketing and sales plan.

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but it means nothing if you do not have a marketing and sales plan to inform your customers about them. Your marketing and sales plan is critical to the success of your business.

The sales and marketing section is where you show and offer a detailed explanation of your marketing and sales plan and how you plan to execute it. It covers your pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success, and the benefits of your products and services.

There are several ways you can approach your marketing and sales strategy. Ideally, your marketing and sales strategy has to fit the unique needs of your business.

In this section, you describe how the plans your business has for attracting and retaining customers, and the exact process for making a sale happen. It is essential to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales plans because you are still going to reference this section when you are making financial projections for your business.

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The sales and marketing section is where you outline your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). When you are developing your unique selling proposition, think about the strongest reasons why people should buy from you over your competition. That reason(s) is most likely a good fit to serve as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Target Market and Target Audience

Plans on how to get your products or services to your target market and how to get your target audience to buy them go into this section. You also highlight the strengths of your business here, particularly what sets them apart from your competition.

Target Market Vs Target Audience

Before you start writing your marketing and sales plan, you need to have properly defined your target audience and fleshed out your buyer persona. If you do not first understand the individual you are marketing to, your marketing and sales plan will lack any substance and easily fall.

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

Marketing your products and services is an investment that requires you to spend money. Like any other investment, you have to generate a good return on investment (ROI) to justify using that marketing and sales plan. Good marketing and sales plans bring in high sales and profits to your company.

Avoid spending money on unproductive marketing channels. Do your research and find out the best marketing and sales plan that works best for your company.

Your marketing and sales plan can be broken into different parts: your positioning statement, pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, public relations, content marketing, social media, and strategic alliances.

Your Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is the first part of your marketing and sales plan. It refers to the way you present your company to your customers.

Are you the premium solution, the low-price solution, or are you the intermediary between the two extremes in the market? What do you offer that your competitors do not that can give you leverage in the market?

Before you start writing your positioning statement, you need to spend some time evaluating the current market conditions. Here are some questions that can help you to evaluate the market

  • What are the unique features or benefits that you offer that your competitors lack?
  • What are your customers’ primary needs and wants?
  • Why should a customer choose you over your competition? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • How does your company’s solution compare with other solutions in the market?

After answering these questions, then you can start writing your positioning statement. Your positioning statement does not have to be in-depth or too long.

All you need to explain with your positioning statement are two focus areas. The first is the position of your company within the competitive landscape. The other focus area is the core value proposition that sets your company apart from other alternatives that your ideal customer might consider.

Here is a simple template you can use to develop a positioning statement.

For [description of target market] who [need of target market], [product or service] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [top competition], it [most essential distinguishing feature].

For example, let’s create the positioning statement for fictional accounting software and QuickBooks alternative , TBooks.

“For small business owners who need accounting services, TBooks is an accounting software that helps small businesses handle their small business bookkeeping basics quickly and easily. Unlike Wave, TBooks gives small businesses access to live sessions with top accountants.”

You can edit this positioning statement sample and fill it with your business details.

After writing your positioning statement, the next step is the pricing of your offerings. The overall positioning strategy you set in your positioning statement will often determine how you price your products or services.

Pricing is a powerful tool that sends a strong message to your customers. Failure to get your pricing strategy right can make or mar your business. If you are targeting a low-income audience, setting a premium price can result in low sales.

You can use pricing to communicate your positioning to your customers. For example, if you are offering a product at a premium price, you are sending a message to your customers that the product belongs to the premium category.

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

Setting a price for your offering involves more than just putting a price tag on it. Deciding on the right pricing for your offering requires following some basic rules. They include covering your costs, primary and secondary profit center pricing, and matching the market rate.

  • Covering Your Costs: The price you set for your products or service should be more than it costs you to produce and deliver them. Every business has the same goal, to make a profit. Depending on the strategy you want to use, there are exceptions to this rule. However, the vast majority of businesses follow this rule.
  • Primary and Secondary Profit Center Pricing: When a company sets its price above the cost of production, it is making that product its primary profit center. A company can also decide not to make its initial price its primary profit center by selling below or at even with its production cost. It rather depends on the support product or even maintenance that is associated with the initial purchase to make its profit. The initial price thus became its secondary profit center.
  • Matching the Market Rate: A good rule to follow when pricing your products or services is to match your pricing with consumer demand and expectations. If you price your products or services beyond the price your customer perceives as the ideal price range, you may end up with no customers. Pricing your products too low below what your customer perceives as the ideal price range may lead to them undervaluing your offering.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy influences the price of your offering. There are several pricing strategies available for you to choose from when examining the right pricing strategy for your business. They include cost-plus pricing, market-based pricing, value pricing, and more.

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

  • Cost-plus Pricing: This strategy is one of the simplest and oldest pricing strategies. Here you consider the cost of producing a unit of your product and then add a profit to it to arrive at your market price. It is an effective pricing strategy for manufacturers because it helps them cover their initial costs. Another name for the cost-plus pricing strategy is the markup pricing strategy.
  • Market-based Pricing: This pricing strategy analyses the market including competitors’ pricing and then sets a price based on what the market is expecting. With this pricing strategy, you can either set your price at the low-end or high-end of the market.
  • Value Pricing: This pricing strategy involves setting a price based on the value you are providing to your customer. When adopting a value-based pricing strategy, you have to set a price that your customers are willing to pay. Service-based businesses such as small business insurance providers , luxury goods sellers, and the fashion industry use this pricing strategy.

After carefully sorting out your positioning statement and pricing, the next item to look at is your promotional strategy. Your promotional strategy explains how you plan on communicating with your customers and prospects.

As a business, you must measure all your costs, including the cost of your promotions. You also want to measure how much sales your promotions bring for your business to determine its usefulness. Promotional strategies or programs that do not lead to profit need to be removed.

There are different types of promotional strategies you can adopt for your business, they include advertising, public relations, and content marketing.

Advertising

Your business plan should include your advertising plan which can be found in the marketing and sales plan section. You need to include an overview of your advertising plans such as the areas you plan to spend money on to advertise your business and offers.

Ensure that you make it clear in this section if your business will be advertising online or using the more traditional offline media, or the combination of both online and offline media. You can also include the advertising medium you want to use to raise awareness about your business and offers.

Some common online advertising mediums you can use include social media ads, landing pages, sales pages, SEO, Pay-Per-Click, emails, Google Ads, and others. Some common traditional and offline advertising mediums include word of mouth, radios, direct mail, televisions, flyers, billboards, posters, and others.

A key component of your advertising strategy is how you plan to measure the effectiveness and success of your advertising campaign. There is no point in sticking with an advertising plan or medium that does not produce results for your business in the long run.

Public Relations

A great way to reach your customers is to get the media to cover your business or product. Publicity, especially good ones, should be a part of your marketing and sales plan. In this section, show your plans for getting prominent reviews of your product from reputable publications and sources.

Your business needs that exposure to grow. If public relations is a crucial part of your promotional strategy, provide details about your public relations plan here.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular promotional strategy used by businesses to inform and attract their customers. It is about teaching and educating your prospects on various topics of interest in your niche, it does not just involve informing them about the benefits and features of the products and services you have,

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Businesses publish content usually for free where they provide useful information, tips, and advice so that their target market can be made aware of the importance of their products and services. Content marketing strategies seek to nurture prospects into buyers over time by simply providing value.

Your company can create a blog where it will be publishing content for its target market. You will need to use the best website builder such as Wix and Squarespace and the best web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostinger, and other Bluehost alternatives to create a functional blog or website.

If content marketing is a crucial part of your promotional strategy (as it should be), detail your plans under promotions.

Including high-quality images of the packaging of your product in your business plan is a lovely idea. You can add the images of the packaging of that product in the marketing and sales plan section. If you are not selling a product, then you do not need to include any worry about the physical packaging of your product.

When organizing the packaging section of your business plan, you can answer the following questions to make maximum use of this section.

  • Is your choice of packaging consistent with your positioning strategy?
  • What key value proposition does your packaging communicate? (It should reflect the key value proposition of your business)
  • How does your packaging compare to that of your competitors?

Social Media

Your 21st-century business needs to have a good social media presence. Not having one is leaving out opportunities for growth and reaching out to your prospect.

You do not have to join the thousands of social media platforms out there. What you need to do is join the ones that your customers are active on and be active there.

Most popular social media platforms

Businesses use social media to provide information about their products such as promotions, discounts, the benefits of their products, and content on their blogs.

Social media is also a platform for engaging with your customers and getting feedback about your products or services. Make no mistake, more and more of your prospects are using social media channels to find more information about companies.

You need to consider the social media channels you want to prioritize your business (prioritize the ones your customers are active in) and your branding plans in this section.

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

If your company plans to work closely with other companies as part of your sales and marketing plan, include it in this section. Prove details about those partnerships in your business plan if you have already established them.

Strategic alliances can be beneficial for all parties involved including your company. Working closely with another company in the form of a partnership can provide access to a different target market segment for your company.

The company you are partnering with may also gain access to your target market or simply offer a new product or service (that of your company) to its customers.

Mutually beneficial partnerships can cover the weaknesses of one company with the strength of another. You should consider strategic alliances with companies that sell complimentary products to yours. For example, if you provide printers, you can partner with a company that produces ink since the customers that buy printers from you will also need inks for printing.

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

Identify who your customers are, the market you want to target. Then determine the best ways to get your products or services to your potential customers.

2. Evaluate Your Competition

One of the goals of having a marketing plan is to distinguish yourself from your competition. You cannot stand out from them without first knowing them in and out.

You can know your competitors by gathering information about their products, pricing, service, and advertising campaigns.

These questions can help you know your competition.

  • What makes your competition successful?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What are customers saying about your competition?

3. Consider Your Brand

Customers' perception of your brand has a strong impact on your sales. Your marketing and sales plan should seek to bolster the image of your brand. Before you start marketing your business, think about the message you want to pass across about your business and your products and services.

4. Focus on Benefits

The majority of your customers do not view your product in terms of features, what they want to know is the benefits and solutions your product offers. Think about the problems your product solves and the benefits it delivers, and use it to create the right sales and marketing message.

Your marketing plan should focus on what you want your customer to get instead of what you provide. Identify those benefits in your marketing and sales plan.

5. Focus on Differentiation

Your marketing and sales plan should look for a unique angle they can take that differentiates your business from the competition, even if the products offered are similar. Some good areas of differentiation you can use are your benefits, pricing, and features.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

  • What is your company’s budget for sales and marketing campaigns?
  • What key metrics will you use to determine if your marketing plans are successful?
  • What are your alternatives if your initial marketing efforts do not succeed?
  • Who are the sales representatives you need to promote your products or services?
  • What are the marketing and sales channels you plan to use? How do you plan to get your products in front of your ideal customers?
  • Where will you sell your products?

You may want to include samples of marketing materials you plan to use such as print ads, website descriptions, and social media ads. While it is not compulsory to include these samples, it can help you better communicate your marketing and sales plan and objectives.

The purpose of the marketing and sales section is to answer this question “How will you reach your customers?” If you cannot convincingly provide an answer to this question, you need to rework your marketing and sales section.

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

If you are writing your business plan to ask for funding from investors or financial institutions, the funding request section is where you will outline your funding requirements. The funding request section should answer the question ‘How much money will your business need in the near future (3 to 5 years)?’

A good funding request section will clearly outline and explain the amount of funding your business needs over the next five years. You need to know the amount of money your business needs to make an accurate funding request.

Also, when writing your funding request, provide details of how the funds will be used over the period. Specify if you want to use the funds to buy raw materials or machinery, pay salaries, pay for advertisements, and cover specific bills such as rent and electricity.

In addition to explaining what you want to use the funds requested for, you need to clearly state the projected return on investment (ROI) . Investors and creditors want to know if your business can generate profit for them if they put funds into it.

Ensure you do not inflate the figures and stay as realistic as possible. Investors and financial institutions you are seeking funds from will do their research before investing money in your business.

If you are not sure of an exact number to request from, you can use some range of numbers as rough estimates. Add a best-case scenario and a work-case scenario to your funding request. Also, include a description of your strategic future financial plans such as selling your business or paying off debts.

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

When making your funding request, specify the type of funding you want. Do you want debt or equity? Draw out the terms that will be applicable for the funding, and the length of time the funding request will cover.

Case for Equity

If your new business has not yet started generating profits, you are most likely preparing to sell equity in your business to raise capital at the early stage. Equity here refers to ownership. In this case, you are selling a portion of your company to raise capital.

Although this method of raising capital for your business does not put your business in debt, keep in mind that an equity owner may expect to play a key role in company decisions even if he does not hold a major stake in the company.

Most equity sales for startups are usually private transactions . If you are making a funding request by offering equity in exchange for funding, let the investor know that they will be paid a dividend (a share of the company’s profit). Also, let the investor know the process for selling their equity in your business.

Case for Debt

You may decide not to offer equity in exchange for funds, instead, you make a funding request with the promise to pay back the money borrowed at the agreed time frame.

When making a funding request with an agreement to pay back, note that you will have to repay your creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on it. Financial institutions offer this type of funding for businesses.

Large companies combine both equity and debt in their capital structure. When drafting your business plan, decide if you want to offer both or one over the other.

Before you sell equity in exchange for funding in your business, consider if you are willing to accept not being in total control of your business. Also, before you seek loans in your funding request section, ensure that the terms of repayment are favorable.

You should set a clear timeline in your funding request so that potential investors and creditors can know what you are expecting. Some investors and creditors may agree to your funding request and then delay payment for longer than 30 days, meanwhile, your business needs an immediate cash injection to operate efficiently.

Additional Tips for Writing the Funding Request Section of your Business Plan

The funding request section is not necessary for every business, it is only needed by businesses who plan to use their business plan to secure funding.

If you are adding the funding request section to your business plan, provide an itemized summary of how you plan to use the funds requested. Hiring a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals may be necessary for the proper development of this section.

You should also gather and use financial statements that add credibility and support to your funding requests. Ensure that the financial statements you use should include your projected financial data such as projected cash flows, forecast statements, and expenditure budgets.

If you are an existing business, include all historical financial statements such as cash flow statements, balance sheets and income statements .

Provide monthly and quarterly financial statements for a year. If your business has records that date back beyond the one-year mark, add the yearly statements of those years. These documents are for the appendix section of your business plan.

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

If you used the funding request section in your business plan, supplement it with a financial plan, metrics, and projections. This section paints a picture of the past performance of your business and then goes ahead to make an informed projection about its future.

The goal of this section is to convince readers that your business is going to be a financial success. It outlines your business plan to generate enough profit to repay the loan (with interest if applicable) and to generate a decent return on investment for investors.

If you have an existing business already in operation, use this section to demonstrate stability through finance. This section should include your cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements covering the last three to five years. If your business has some acceptable collateral that you can use to acquire loans, list it in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

Apart from current financial statements, this section should also contain a prospective financial outlook that spans the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure budget.

If your business is new and is not yet generating profit, use clear and realistic projections to show the potentials of your business.

When drafting this section, research industry norms and the performance of comparable businesses. Your financial projections should cover at least five years. State the logic behind your financial projections. Remember you can always make adjustments to this section as the variables change.

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section create a baseline which your business can either exceed or fail to reach. If your business fails to reach your projections in this section, you need to understand why it failed.

Investors and loan managers spend a lot of time going through the financial plan, metrics, and projection section compared to other parts of the business plan. Ensure you spend time creating credible financial analyses for your business in this section.

Many entrepreneurs find this section daunting to write. You do not need a business degree to create a solid financial forecast for your business. Business finances, especially for startups, are not as complicated as they seem. There are several online tools and templates that make writing this section so much easier.

Use Graphs and Charts

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business. Charts and images make it easier to communicate your finances.

Accuracy in this section is key, ensure you carefully analyze your past financial statements properly before making financial projects.

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

Keep your financial plan, metrics, and projection realistic. It is okay to be optimistic in your financial projection, however, you have to justify it.

You should also address the various risk factors associated with your business in this section. Investors want to know the potential risks involved, show them. You should also show your plans for mitigating those risks.

What You Should In The Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection Section of Your Business Plan

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section of your business plan should have monthly sales and revenue forecasts for the first year. It should also include annual projections that cover 3 to 5 years.

A three-year projection is a basic requirement to have in your business plan. However, some investors may request a five-year forecast.

Your business plan should include the following financial statements: sales forecast, personnel plan, income statement, income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and an exit strategy.

1. Sales Forecast

Sales forecast refers to your projections about the number of sales your business is going to record over the next few years. It is typically broken into several rows, with each row assigned to a core product or service that your business is offering.

One common mistake people make in their business plan is to break down the sales forecast section into long details. A sales forecast should forecast the high-level details.

For example, if you are forecasting sales for a payroll software provider, you could break down your forecast into target market segments or subscription categories.

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

Your sales forecast section should also have a corresponding row for each sales row to cover the direct cost or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). The objective of these rows is to show the expenses that your business incurs in making and delivering your product or service.

Note that your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) should only cover those direct costs incurred when making your products. Other indirect expenses such as insurance, salaries, payroll tax, and rent should not be included.

For example, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a restaurant is the cost of ingredients while for a consulting company it will be the cost of paper and other presentation materials.

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

The personnel plan section is where you provide details about the payment plan for your employees. For a small business, you can easily list every position in your company and how much you plan to pay in the personnel plan.

However, for larger businesses, you have to break the personnel plan into functional groups such as sales and marketing.

The personnel plan will also include the cost of an employee beyond salary, commonly referred to as the employee burden. These costs include insurance, payroll taxes , and other essential costs incurred monthly as a result of having employees on your payroll.

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

The income statement section shows if your business is making a profit or taking a loss. Another name for the income statement is the profit and loss (P&L). It takes data from your sales forecast and personnel plan and adds other ongoing expenses you incur while running your business.

The income statement section

Every business plan should have an income statement. It subtracts your business expenses from its earnings to show if your business is generating profit or incurring losses.

The income statement has the following items: sales, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), gross margin, operating expenses, total operating expenses, operating income , total expenses, and net profit.

  • Sales refer to the revenue your business generates from selling its products or services. Other names for sales are income or revenue.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) refers to the total cost of selling your products. Other names for COGS are direct costs or cost of sales. Manufacturing businesses use the Costs of Goods Manufactured (COGM) .
  • Gross Margin is the figure you get when you subtract your COGS from your sales. In your income statement, you can express it as a percentage of total sales (Gross margin / Sales = Gross Margin Percent).
  • Operating Expenses refer to all the expenses you incur from running your business. It exempts the COGS because it stands alone as a core part of your income statement. You also have to exclude taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Your operating expenses include salaries, marketing expenses, research and development (R&D) expenses, and other expenses.
  • Total Operating Expenses refers to the sum of all your operating expenses including those exemptions named above under operating expenses.
  • Operating Income refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is simply known as the acronym EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Calculating your operating income is simple, all you need to do is to subtract your COGS and total operating expenses from your sales.
  • Total Expenses refer to the sum of your operating expenses and your business’ interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • Net profit shows whether your business has made a profit or taken a loss during a given timeframe.

4. Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement tracks the money you have in the bank at any given point. It is often confused with the income statement or the profit and loss statement. They are both different types of financial statements. The income statement calculates your profits and losses while the cash flow statement shows you how much you have in the bank.

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It contains information about the assets and liabilities of your company, and owner’s or shareholders’ equity.

You can get the net worth of your company by subtracting your company’s liabilities from its assets.

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

The exit strategy refers to a probable plan for selling your business either to the public in an IPO or to another company. It is the last thing you include in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

You can choose to omit the exit strategy from your business plan if you plan to maintain full ownership of your business and do not plan on seeking angel investment or virtual capitalist (VC) funding.

Investors may want to know what your exit plan is. They invest in your business to get a good return on investment.

Your exit strategy does not have to include long and boring details. Ensure you identify some interested parties who may be interested in buying the company if it becomes a success.

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

Key Questions to Answer with Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection

Your financial plan, metrics, and projection section helps investors, creditors, or your internal managers to understand what your expenses are, the amount of cash you need, and what it takes to make your company profitable. It also shows what you will be doing with any funding.

You do not need to show actual financial data if you do not have one. Adding forecasts and projections to your financial statements is added proof that your strategy is feasible and shows investors you have planned properly.

Here are some key questions to answer to help you develop this section.

  • What is your sales forecast for the next year?
  • When will your company achieve a positive cash flow?
  • What are the core expenses you need to operate?
  • How much money do you need upfront to operate or grow your company?
  • How will you use the loans or investments?

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

Adding an appendix to your business plan is optional. It is a useful place to put any charts, tables, legal notes, definitions, permits, résumés, and other critical information that do not fit into other sections of your business plan.

The appendix section is where you would want to include details of a patent or patent-pending if you have one. You can always add illustrations or images of your products here. It is the last section of your business plan.

When writing your business plan, there are details you cut short or remove to prevent the entire section from becoming too lengthy. There are also details you want to include in the business plan but are not a good fit for any of the previous sections. You can add that additional information to the appendix section.

Businesses also use the appendix section to include supporting documents or other materials specially requested by investors or lenders.

You can include just about any information that supports the assumptions and statements you made in the business plan under the appendix. It is the one place in the business plan where unrelated data and information can coexist amicably.

If your appendix section is lengthy, try organizing it by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the appendix section. It is also advisable to group similar information to make it easier for the reader to access them.

A well-organized appendix section makes it easier to share your information clearly and concisely. Add footnotes throughout the rest of the business plan or make references in the plan to the documents in the appendix.

The appendix section is usually only necessary if you are seeking funding from investors or lenders, or hoping to attract partners.

People reading business plans do not want to spend time going through a heap of backup information, numbers, and charts. Keep these documents or information in the Appendix section in case the reader wants to dig deeper.

Common Items to Include in the Appendix Section of Your Business Plan

The appendix section includes documents that supplement or support the information or claims given in other sections of the business plans. Common items you can include in the appendix section include:

  • Additional data about the process of manufacturing or creation
  • Additional description of products or services such as product schematics
  • Additional financial documents or projections
  • Articles of incorporation and status
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Bank statements
  • Business registries
  • Client testimonials (if your business is already running)
  • Copies of insurances
  • Credit histories (personal or/and business)
  • Deeds and permits
  • Equipment leases
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Industry associations and memberships
  • Images of product
  • Intellectual property
  • Key customer contracts
  • Legal documents and other contracts
  • Letters of reference
  • Links to references
  • Market research data
  • Organizational charts
  • Photographs of potential facilities
  • Professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
  • Purchase orders
  • Resumes of the founder(s) and key managers
  • State and federal identification numbers or codes
  • Trademarks or patents’ registrations

Avoid using the appendix section as a place to dump any document or information you feel like adding. Only add documents or information that you support or increase the credibility of your business plan.

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

To achieve a perfect business plan, you need to consider some key tips and strategies. These tips will raise the efficiency of your business plan above average.

1. Know Your Audience

When writing a business plan, you need to know your audience . Business owners write business plans for different reasons. Your business plan has to be specific. For example, you can write business plans to potential investors, banks, and even fellow board members of the company.

The audience you are writing to determines the structure of the business plan. As a business owner, you have to know your audience. Not everyone will be your audience. Knowing your audience will help you to narrow the scope of your business plan.

Consider what your audience wants to see in your projects, the likely questions they might ask, and what interests them.

  • A business plan used to address a company's board members will center on its employment schemes, internal affairs, projects, stakeholders, etc.
  • A business plan for financial institutions will talk about the size of your market and the chances for you to pay back any loans you demand.
  • A business plan for investors will show proof that you can return the investment capital within a specific time. In addition, it discusses your financial projections, tractions, and market size.

2. Get Inspiration from People

Writing a business plan from scratch as an entrepreneur can be daunting. That is why you need the right inspiration to push you to write one. You can gain inspiration from the successful business plans of other businesses. Look at their business plans, the style they use, the structure of the project, etc.

To make your business plan easier to create, search companies related to your business to get an exact copy of what you need to create an effective business plan. You can also make references while citing examples in your business plans.

When drafting your business plan, get as much help from others as you possibly can. By getting inspiration from people, you can create something better than what they have.

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

Many business owners make use of strong adjectives to qualify their content. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make when preparing a business plan is promising too much.

The use of superlatives and over-optimistic claims can prepare the audience for more than you can offer. In the end, you disappoint the confidence they have in you.

In most cases, the best option is to be realistic with your claims and statistics. Most of the investors can sense a bit of incompetency from the overuse of superlatives. As a new entrepreneur, do not be tempted to over-promise to get the interests of investors.

The concept of entrepreneurship centers on risks, nothing is certain when you make future analyses. What separates the best is the ability to do careful research and work towards achieving that, not promising more than you can achieve.

To make an excellent first impression as an entrepreneur, replace superlatives with compelling data-driven content. In this way, you are more specific than someone promising a huge ROI from an investment.

4. Keep it Simple and Short

When writing business plans, ensure you keep them simple throughout. Irrespective of the purpose of the business plan, your goal is to convince the audience.

One way to achieve this goal is to make them understand your proposal. Therefore, it would be best if you avoid the use of complex grammar to express yourself. It would be a huge turn-off if the people you want to convince are not familiar with your use of words.

Another thing to note is the length of your business plan. It would be best if you made it as brief as possible.

You hardly see investors or agencies that read through an extremely long document. In that case, if your first few pages can’t convince them, then you have lost it. The more pages you write, the higher the chances of you derailing from the essential contents.

To ensure your business plan has a high conversion rate, you need to dispose of every unnecessary information. For example, if you have a strategy that you are not sure of, it would be best to leave it out of the plan.

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

A perfect business plan must have touched every part needed to convince the audience. Business owners get easily tempted to concentrate more on their products than on other sections. Doing this can be detrimental to the efficiency of the business plan.

For example, imagine you talking about a product but omitting or providing very little information about the target audience. You will leave your clients confused.

To ensure that your business plan communicates your full business model to readers, you have to input all the necessary information in it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to design a structure and stick to it.

This structure is what guides you throughout the writing. To make your work easier, you can assign an estimated word count or page limit to every section to avoid making it too bulky for easy reading. As a guide, the necessary things your business plan must contain are:

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Product or service description
  • Target audience
  • Market size
  • Competition analysis
  • Financial projections

Some specific businesses can include some other essential sections, but these are the key sections that must be in every business plan.

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

When writing a business plan, you must tie all loose ends to get a perfect result. When you are done with writing, call a professional to go through the document for you. You are bound to make mistakes, and the way to correct them is to get external help.

You should get a professional in your field who can relate to every section of your business plan. It would be easier for the professional to notice the inner flaws in the document than an editor with no knowledge of your business.

In addition to getting a professional to proofread, get an editor to proofread and edit your document. The editor will help you identify grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate writing styles.

Writing a business plan can be daunting, but you can surmount that obstacle and get the best out of it with these tips.

Business Plan Examples and Templates That’ll Save You Tons of Time

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan template by HubSpot is the perfect guide for businesses of any size, irrespective of their business strategy. Although the template is condensed into a page, your final business plan should not be a page long! The template is designed to ask helpful questions that can help you develop your business plan.

Hubspot’s one-page business plan template is divided into nine fields:

  • Business opportunity
  • Company description
  • Industry analysis
  • Target market
  • Implementation timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial summary
  • Funding required

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplans' free business plan template is investor-approved. It is a rich template used by prestigious educational institutions such as Babson College and Princeton University to teach entrepreneurs how to create a business plan.

The template has six sections: the executive summary, opportunity, execution, company, financial plan, and appendix. There is a step-by-step guide for writing every little detail in the business plan. Follow the instructions each step of the way and you will create a business plan that impresses investors or lenders easily.

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot’s downloadable business plan template is a more comprehensive option compared to the one-page business template by HubSpot. This free and downloadable business plan template is designed for entrepreneurs.

The template is a comprehensive guide and checklist for business owners just starting their businesses. It tells you everything you need to fill in each section of the business plan and how to do it.

There are nine sections in this business plan template: an executive summary, company and business description, product and services line, market analysis, marketing plan, sales plan, legal notes, financial considerations, and appendix.

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

My Own Business Institute (MOBI) which is a part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a free business plan template. You can either copy the free business template from the link provided above or download it as a Word document.

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

  • The Business Profile
  • The Vision and the People
  • Home-Based Business and Freelance Business Opportunities
  • Organization
  • Licenses and Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Communication Tools
  • Acquisitions
  • Location and Leasing
  • Accounting and Cash Flow
  • Opening and Marketing
  • Managing Employees
  • Expanding and Handling Problems

There are lots of helpful tips on how to fill each section in the free business plan template by MOBI.

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs build successful companies. This business plan template for startups by Score is available for free download. The business plan template asks a whooping 150 generic questions that help entrepreneurs from different fields to set up the perfect business plan.

The business plan template for startups contains clear instructions and worksheets, all you have to do is answer the questions and fill the worksheets.

There are nine sections in the business plan template: executive summary, company description, products and services, marketing plan, operational plan, management and organization, startup expenses and capitalization, financial plan, and appendices.

The ‘refining the plan’ resource contains instructions that help you modify your business plan to suit your specific needs, industry, and target audience. After you have completed Score’s business plan template, you can work with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning.

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

The minimalist architecture business plan template is a simple template by Venngage that you can customize to suit your business needs .

There are five sections in the template: an executive summary, statement of problem, approach and methodology, qualifications, and schedule and benchmark. The business plan template has instructions that guide users on what to fill in each section.

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two free business plan templates, filled with practical real-life examples that you can model to create your business plan. Both free business plan templates are written by fictional business owners: Rebecca who owns a consulting firm, and Andrew who owns a toy company.

There are five sections in the two SBA’s free business plan templates.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Service Line
  • Marketing and Sales

8. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan by the $100 startup is a simple business plan template for entrepreneurs who do not want to create a long and complicated plan . You can include more details in the appendices for funders who want more information beyond what you can put in the one-page business plan.

There are five sections in the one-page business plan such as overview, ka-ching, hustling, success, and obstacles or challenges or open questions. You can answer all the questions using one or two sentences.

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

The free business plan template by PandaDoc is a comprehensive 15-page document that describes the information you should include in every section.

There are 11 sections in PandaDoc’s free business plan template.

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion / Call to action
  • Confidentiality statement

You have to sign up for its 14-day free trial to access the template. You will find different business plan templates on PandaDoc once you sign up (including templates for general businesses and specific businesses such as bakeries, startups, restaurants, salons, hotels, and coffee shops)

PandaDoc allows you to customize its business plan templates to fit the needs of your business. After editing the template, you can send it to interested parties and track opens and views through PandaDoc.

10. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

InvoiceBerry is a U.K based online invoicing and tracking platform that offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats for freelancers and small businesses.

Before you can download the free business plan template, it will ask you to give it your email address. After you complete the little task, it will send the download link to your inbox for you to download. It also provides a business plan checklist in .xlsx file format that ensures you add the right information to the business plan.

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

A business plan is very important in mapping out how one expects their business to grow over a set number of years, particularly when they need external investment in their business. However, many investors do not have the time to watch you present your business plan. It is a long and boring read.

Luckily, there are three alternatives to the traditional business plan (the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck). These alternatives are less laborious and easier and quicker to present to investors.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The business model canvas is a business tool used to present all the important components of setting up a business, such as customers, route to market, value proposition, and finance in a single sheet. It provides a very focused blueprint that defines your business initially which you can later expand on if needed.

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

The sheet is divided mainly into company, industry, and consumer models that are interconnected in how they find problems and proffer solutions.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas was developed by founder Alexander Osterwalder to answer important business questions. It contains nine segments.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

  • Key Partners: Who will be occupying important executive positions in your business? What do they bring to the table? Will there be a third party involved with the company?
  • Key Activities: What important activities will production entail? What activities will be carried out to ensure the smooth running of the company?
  • The Product’s Value Propositions: What does your product do? How will it be different from other products?
  • Customer Segments: What demography of consumers are you targeting? What are the habits of these consumers? Who are the MVPs of your target consumers?
  • Customer Relationships: How will the team support and work with its customer base? How do you intend to build and maintain trust with the customer?
  • Key Resources: What type of personnel and tools will be needed? What size of the budget will they need access to?
  • Channels: How do you plan to create awareness of your products? How do you intend to transport your product to the customer?
  • Cost Structure: What is the estimated cost of production? How much will distribution cost?
  • Revenue Streams: For what value are customers willing to pay? How do they prefer to pay for the product? Are there any external revenues attached apart from the main source? How do the revenue streams contribute to the overall revenue?

Lean Canvas

The lean canvas is a problem-oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas. It was proposed by Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Stack as a development of the business model generation. It uses a more problem-focused approach and it majorly targets entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

The lean canvas is a problem oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas

Lean Canvas uses the same 9 blocks concept as the business model canvas, however, they have been modified slightly to suit the needs and purpose of a small startup. The key partners, key activities, customer relationships, and key resources are replaced by new segments which are:

  • Problem: Simple and straightforward number of problems you have identified, ideally three.
  • Solution: The solutions to each problem.
  • Unfair Advantage: Something you possess that can't be easily bought or replicated.
  • Key Metrics: Important numbers that will tell how your business is doing.

Startup Pitch Deck

While the business model canvas compresses into a factual sheet, startup pitch decks expand flamboyantly.

Pitch decks, through slides, convey your business plan, often through graphs and images used to emphasize estimations and observations in your presentation. Entrepreneurs often use pitch decks to fully convince their target audience of their plans before discussing funding arrangements.

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

Considering the likelihood of it being used in a small time frame, a good startup pitch deck should ideally contain 20 slides or less to have enough time to answer questions from the audience.

Unlike the standard and lean business model canvases, a pitch deck doesn't have a set template on how to present your business plan but there are still important components to it. These components often mirror those of the business model canvas except that they are in slide form and contain more details.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Using Airbnb (one of the most successful start-ups in recent history) for reference, the important components of a good slide are listed below.

  • Cover/Introduction Slide: Here, you should include your company's name and mission statement. Your mission statement should be a very catchy tagline. Also, include personal information and contact details to provide an easy link for potential investors.
  • Problem Slide: This slide requires you to create a connection with the audience or the investor that you are pitching. For example in their pitch, Airbnb summarized the most important problems it would solve in three brief points – pricing of hotels, disconnection from city culture, and connection problems for local bookings.
  • Solution Slide: This slide includes your core value proposition. List simple and direct solutions to the problems you have mentioned
  • Customer Analysis: Here you will provide information on the customers you will be offering your service to. The identity of your customers plays an important part in fundraising as well as the long-run viability of the business.
  • Market Validation: Use competitive analysis to show numbers that prove the presence of a market for your product, industry behavior in the present and the long run, as well as the percentage of the market you aim to attract. It shows that you understand your competitors and customers and convinces investors of the opportunities presented in the market.
  • Business Model: Your business model is the hook of your presentation. It may vary in complexity but it should generally include a pricing system informed by your market analysis. The goal of the slide is to confirm your business model is easy to implement.
  • Marketing Strategy: This slide should summarize a few customer acquisition methods that you plan to use to grow the business.
  • Competitive Advantage: What this slide will do is provide information on what will set you apart and make you a more attractive option to customers. It could be the possession of technology that is not widely known in the market.
  • Team Slide: Here you will give a brief description of your team. Include your key management personnel here and their specific roles in the company. Include their educational background, job history, and skillsets. Also, talk about their accomplishments in their careers so far to build investors' confidence in members of your team.
  • Traction Slide: This validates the company’s business model by showing growth through early sales and support. The slide aims to reduce any lingering fears in potential investors by showing realistic periodic milestones and profit margins. It can include current sales, growth, valuable customers, pre-orders, or data from surveys outlining current consumer interest.
  • Funding Slide: This slide is popularly referred to as ‘the ask'. Here you will include important details like how much is needed to get your business off the ground and how the funding will be spent to help the company reach its goals.
  • Appendix Slides: Your pitch deck appendix should always be included alongside a standard pitch presentation. It consists of additional slides you could not show in the pitch deck but you need to complement your presentation.

It is important to support your calculations with pictorial renditions. Infographics, such as pie charts or bar graphs, will be more effective in presenting the information than just listing numbers. For example, a six-month graph that shows rising profit margins will easily look more impressive than merely writing it.

Lastly, since a pitch deck is primarily used to secure meetings and you may be sharing your pitch with several investors, it is advisable to keep a separate public version that doesn't include financials. Only disclose the one with projections once you have secured a link with an investor.

Advantages of the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck over the Traditional Business Plan

  • Time-Saving: Writing a detailed traditional business plan could take weeks or months. On the other hand, all three alternatives can be done in a few days or even one night of brainstorming if you have a comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Easier to Understand: Since the information presented is almost entirely factual, it puts focus on what is most important in running the business. They cut away the excess pages of fillers in a traditional business plan and allow investors to see what is driving the business and what is getting in the way.
  • Easy to Update: Businesses typically present their business plans to many potential investors before they secure funding. What this means is that you may regularly have to amend your presentation to update statistics or adjust to audience-specific needs. For a traditional business plan, this could mean rewriting a whole section of your plan. For the three alternatives, updating is much easier because they are not voluminous.
  • Guide for a More In-depth Business Plan: All three alternatives have the added benefit of being able to double as a sketch of your business plan if the need to create one arises in the future.

Business Plan FAQ

Business plans are important for any entrepreneur who is looking for a framework to run their company over some time or seeking external support. Although they are essential for new businesses, every company should ideally have a business plan to track their growth from time to time.  They can be used by startups seeking investments or loans to convey their business ideas or an employee to convince his boss of the feasibility of starting a new project. They can also be used by companies seeking to recruit high-profile employee targets into key positions or trying to secure partnerships with other firms.

Business plans often vary depending on your target audience, the scope, and the goals for the plan. Startup plans are the most common among the different types of business plans.  A start-up plan is used by a new business to present all the necessary information to help get the business up and running. They are usually used by entrepreneurs who are seeking funding from investors or bank loans. The established company alternative to a start-up plan is a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan is often used by an established company looking for new business opportunities. They are used to show the upsides of creating a new product for a consumer base. Because the audience is usually company people, it requires less company analysis. The third type of business plan is the lean business plan. A lean business plan is a brief, straight-to-the-point breakdown of your ideas and analysis for your business. It does not contain details of your proposal and can be written on one page. Finally, you have the what-if plan. As it implies, a what-if plan is a preparation for the worst-case scenario. You must always be prepared for the possibility of your original plan being rejected. A good what-if plan will serve as a good plan B to the original.

A good business plan has 10 key components. They include an executive plan, product analysis, desired customer base, company analysis, industry analysis, marketing strategy, sales strategy, financial projection, funding, and appendix. Executive Plan Your business should begin with your executive plan. An executive plan will provide early insight into what you are planning to achieve with your business. It should include your mission statement and highlight some of the important points which you will explain later. Product Analysis The next component of your business plan is your product analysis. A key part of this section is explaining the type of item or service you are going to offer as well as the market problems your product will solve. Desired Consumer Base Your product analysis should be supplemented with a detailed breakdown of your desired consumer base. Investors are always interested in knowing the economic power of your market as well as potential MVP customers. Company Analysis The next component of your business plan is your company analysis. Here, you explain how you want to run your business. It will include your operational strategy, an insight into the workforce needed to keep the company running, and important executive positions. It will also provide a calculation of expected operational costs.  Industry Analysis A good business plan should also contain well laid out industry analysis. It is important to convince potential investors you know the companies you will be competing with, as well as your plans to gain an edge on the competition. Marketing Strategy Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy. This is how you intend to spread awareness of your product. It should include a detailed explanation of the company brand as well as your advertising methods. Sales Strategy Your sales strategy comes after the market strategy. Here you give an overview of your company's pricing strategy and how you aim to maximize profits. You can also explain how your prices will adapt to market behaviors. Financial Projection The financial projection is the next component of your business plan. It explains your company's expected running cost and revenue earned during the tenure of the business plan. Financial projection gives a clear idea of how your company will develop in the future. Funding The next component of your business plan is funding. You have to detail how much external investment you need to get your business idea off the ground here. Appendix The last component of your plan is the appendix. This is where you put licenses, graphs, or key information that does not fit in any of the other components.

The business model canvas is a business management tool used to quickly define your business idea and model. It is often used when investors need you to pitch your business idea during a brief window.

A pitch deck is similar to a business model canvas except that it makes use of slides in its presentation. A pitch is not primarily used to secure funding, rather its main purpose is to entice potential investors by selling a very optimistic outlook on the business.

Business plan competitions help you evaluate the strength of your business plan. By participating in business plan competitions, you are improving your experience. The experience provides you with a degree of validation while practicing important skills. The main motivation for entering into the competitions is often to secure funding by finishing in podium positions. There is also the chance that you may catch the eye of a casual observer outside of the competition. These competitions also provide good networking opportunities. You could meet mentors who will take a keen interest in guiding you in your business journey. You also have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs whose ideas can complement yours.

Exlore Further

  • 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
  • 13 Sources of Business Finance For Companies & Sole Traders
  • 5 Common Types of Business Structures (+ Pros & Cons)
  • How to Buy a Business in 8 Steps (+ Due Diligence Checklist)

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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

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Strategy and Implementation : Provides the details of how you plan on building the business.

Management Team : An overview of the people behind the business and why they’re the right team to make the business a success.

Financial Plan : A complete set of forecasts including a Profit and Loss Statement, Cash Flow Statement, and Balance Sheet.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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How to make a business plan

Strategic planning in Miro

Table of Contents

How to make a good business plan: step-by-step guide.

A business plan is a strategic roadmap used to navigate the challenging journey of entrepreneurship. It's the foundation upon which you build a successful business.

A well-crafted business plan can help you define your vision, clarify your goals, and identify potential problems before they arise.

But where do you start? How do you create a business plan that sets you up for success?

This article will explore the step-by-step process of creating a comprehensive business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a formal document that outlines a business's objectives, strategies, and operational procedures. It typically includes the following information about a company:

Products or services

Target market

Competitors

Marketing and sales strategies

Financial plan

Management team

A business plan serves as a roadmap for a company's success and provides a blueprint for its growth and development. It helps entrepreneurs and business owners organize their ideas, evaluate the feasibility, and identify potential challenges and opportunities.

As well as serving as a guide for business owners, a business plan can attract investors and secure funding. It demonstrates the company's understanding of the market, its ability to generate revenue and profits, and its strategy for managing risks and achieving success.

Business plan vs. business model canvas

A business plan may seem similar to a business model canvas, but each document serves a different purpose.

A business model canvas is a high-level overview that helps entrepreneurs and business owners quickly test and iterate their ideas. It is often a one-page document that briefly outlines the following:

Key partnerships

Key activities

Key propositions

Customer relationships

Customer segments

Key resources

Cost structure

Revenue streams

On the other hand, a Business Plan Template provides a more in-depth analysis of a company's strategy and operations. It is typically a lengthy document and requires significant time and effort to develop.

A business model shouldn’t replace a business plan, and vice versa. Business owners should lay the foundations and visually capture the most important information with a Business Model Canvas Template . Because this is a fast and efficient way to communicate a business idea, a business model canvas is a good starting point before developing a more comprehensive business plan.

A business plan can aim to secure funding from investors or lenders, while a business model canvas communicates a business idea to potential customers or partners.

Why is a business plan important?

A business plan is crucial for any entrepreneur or business owner wanting to increase their chances of success.

Here are some of the many benefits of having a thorough business plan.

Helps to define the business goals and objectives

A business plan encourages you to think critically about your goals and objectives. Doing so lets you clearly understand what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there.

A well-defined set of goals, objectives, and key results also provides a sense of direction and purpose, which helps keep business owners focused and motivated.

Guides decision-making

A business plan requires you to consider different scenarios and potential problems that may arise in your business. This awareness allows you to devise strategies to deal with these issues and avoid pitfalls.

With a clear plan, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions aligning with their overall business goals and objectives. This helps reduce the risk of making costly mistakes and ensures they make decisions with long-term success in mind.

Attracts investors and secures funding

Investors and lenders often require a business plan before considering investing in your business. A document that outlines the company's goals, objectives, and financial forecasts can help instill confidence in potential investors and lenders.

A well-written business plan demonstrates that you have thoroughly thought through your business idea and have a solid plan for success.

Identifies potential challenges and risks

A business plan requires entrepreneurs to consider potential challenges and risks that could impact their business. For example:

Is there enough demand for my product or service?

Will I have enough capital to start my business?

Is the market oversaturated with too many competitors?

What will happen if my marketing strategy is ineffective?

By identifying these potential challenges, entrepreneurs can develop strategies to mitigate risks and overcome challenges. This can reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes and ensure the business is well-positioned to take on any challenges.

Provides a basis for measuring success

A business plan serves as a framework for measuring success by providing clear goals and financial projections . Entrepreneurs can regularly refer to the original business plan as a benchmark to measure progress. By comparing the current business position to initial forecasts, business owners can answer questions such as:

Are we where we want to be at this point?

Did we achieve our goals?

If not, why not, and what do we need to do?

After assessing whether the business is meeting its objectives or falling short, business owners can adjust their strategies as needed.

How to make a business plan step by step

The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include.

1. Create an executive summary

Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

Keep your executive summary concise and clear with the Executive Summary Template . The simple design helps readers understand the crux of your business plan without reading the entire document.

2. Write your company description

Provide a detailed explanation of your company. Include information on what your company does, the mission statement, and your vision for the future.

Provide additional background information on the history of your company, the founders, and any notable achievements or milestones.

3. Conduct a market analysis

Conduct an in-depth analysis of your industry, competitors, and target market. This is best done with a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Next, identify your target market's needs, demographics, and behaviors.

Use the Competitive Analysis Template to brainstorm answers to simple questions like:

What does the current market look like?

Who are your competitors?

What are they offering?

What will give you a competitive advantage?

Who is your target market?

What are they looking for and why?

How will your product or service satisfy a need?

These questions should give you valuable insights into the current market and where your business stands.

4. Describe your products and services

Provide detailed information about your products and services. This includes pricing information, product features, and any unique selling points.

Use the Product/Market Fit Template to explain how your products meet the needs of your target market. Describe what sets them apart from the competition.

5. Design a marketing and sales strategy

Outline how you plan to promote and sell your products. Your marketing strategy and sales strategy should include information about your:

Pricing strategy

Advertising and promotional tactics

Sales channels

The Go to Market Strategy Template is a great way to visually map how you plan to launch your product or service in a new or existing market.

6. Determine budget and financial projections

Document detailed information on your business’ finances. Describe the current financial position of the company and how you expect the finances to play out.

Some details to include in this section are:

Startup costs

Revenue projections

Profit and loss statement

Funding you have received or plan to receive

Strategy for raising funds

7. Set the organization and management structure

Define how your company is structured and who will be responsible for each aspect of the business. Use the Business Organizational Chart Template to visually map the company’s teams, roles, and hierarchy.

As well as the organization and management structure, discuss the legal structure of your business. Clarify whether your business is a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or LLC.

8. Make an action plan

At this point in your business plan, you’ve described what you’re aiming for. But how are you going to get there? The Action Plan Template describes the following steps to move your business plan forward. Outline the next steps you plan to take to bring your business plan to fruition.

Types of business plans

Several types of business plans cater to different purposes and stages of a company's lifecycle. Here are some of the most common types of business plans.

Startup business plan

A startup business plan is typically an entrepreneur's first business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs articulate their business idea when starting a new business.

Not sure how to make a business plan for a startup? It’s pretty similar to a regular business plan, except the primary purpose of a startup business plan is to convince investors to provide funding for the business. A startup business plan also outlines the potential target market, product/service offering, marketing plan, and financial projections.

Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan is a long-term plan that outlines a company's overall strategy, objectives, and tactics. This type of strategic plan focuses on the big picture and helps business owners set goals and priorities and measure progress.

The primary purpose of a strategic business plan is to provide direction and guidance to the company's management team and stakeholders. The plan typically covers a period of three to five years.

Operational business plan

An operational business plan is a detailed document that outlines the day-to-day operations of a business. It focuses on the specific activities and processes required to run the business, such as:

Organizational structure

Staffing plan

Production plan

Quality control

Inventory management

Supply chain

The primary purpose of an operational business plan is to ensure that the business runs efficiently and effectively. It helps business owners manage their resources, track their performance, and identify areas for improvement.

Growth-business plan

A growth-business plan is a strategic plan that outlines how a company plans to expand its business. It helps business owners identify new market opportunities and increase revenue and profitability. The primary purpose of a growth-business plan is to provide a roadmap for the company's expansion and growth.

The 3 Horizons of Growth Template is a great tool to identify new areas of growth. This framework categorizes growth opportunities into three categories: Horizon 1 (core business), Horizon 2 (emerging business), and Horizon 3 (potential business).

One-page business plan

A one-page business plan is a condensed version of a full business plan that focuses on the most critical aspects of a business. It’s a great tool for entrepreneurs who want to quickly communicate their business idea to potential investors, partners, or employees.

A one-page business plan typically includes sections such as business concept, value proposition, revenue streams, and cost structure.

Best practices for how to make a good business plan

Here are some additional tips for creating a business plan:

Use a template

A template can help you organize your thoughts and effectively communicate your business ideas and strategies. Starting with a template can also save you time and effort when formatting your plan.

Miro’s extensive library of customizable templates includes all the necessary sections for a comprehensive business plan. With our templates, you can confidently present your business plans to stakeholders and investors.

Be practical

Avoid overestimating revenue projections or underestimating expenses. Your business plan should be grounded in practical realities like your budget, resources, and capabilities.

Be specific

Provide as much detail as possible in your business plan. A specific plan is easier to execute because it provides clear guidance on what needs to be done and how. Without specific details, your plan may be too broad or vague, making it difficult to know where to start or how to measure success.

Be thorough with your research

Conduct thorough research to fully understand the market, your competitors, and your target audience . By conducting thorough research, you can identify potential risks and challenges your business may face and develop strategies to mitigate them.

Get input from others

It can be easy to become overly focused on your vision and ideas, leading to tunnel vision and a lack of objectivity. By seeking input from others, you can identify potential opportunities you may have overlooked.

Review and revise regularly

A business plan is a living document. You should update it regularly to reflect market, industry, and business changes. Set aside time for regular reviews and revisions to ensure your plan remains relevant and effective.

Create a winning business plan to chart your path to success

Starting or growing a business can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting, a well-written business plan can make or break your business’ success.

The purpose of a business plan is more than just to secure funding and attract investors. It also serves as a roadmap for achieving your business goals and realizing your vision. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies, you can develop a visually appealing, persuasive business plan.

Ready to make an effective business plan that works for you? Check out our library of ready-made strategy and planning templates and chart your path to success.

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How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

Brandon Boushy

  • 3 years ago

Woman working on a business plan

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

show me a business plan

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

Three adjoining circles about business opportunity

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

An image showing product service and demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Business plan development

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

A notepad with a written executive summary for business plan writing

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

show me a business plan

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

Writing the company philosophy and vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

A man holding an iPad with a cup of coffee on his desk

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

An iPad with colored pens on a desk

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Business plan SWOT analysis

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

An iPad with graph about pricing strategy

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

A wooden stamp with the words "quality control"

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Organization chart

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

A table showing yearly revenue of a business

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

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Brandon Boushy

Brandon Boushy lives to improve people’s lives by helping them become successful entrepreneurs. His journey started nearly 30 years ago. He consistently excelled at everything he did, but preferred to make the rules rather than follow him. His exploration of self and knowledge has helped him to get an engineering degree, MBA, and countless certifications. When freelancing and rideshare came onto the scene, he recognized the opportunity to play by his own rules. Since 2017, he has helped businesses across all industries achieve more with his research, writing, and marketing strategies. Since 2021, he has been the Lead Writer for UpFlip where he has published over 170 articles on small business success.

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Home > Business > Business Startup

How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our editorial guidelines and advertising disclosure .

How-to-write-a-business-plan

Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

show me a business plan

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

show me a business plan

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

Compare the Top Small-Business Banks

Data effective 1/10/23. At publishing time, rates, fees, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

Related content

  • 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools in 2023 for Your Small Business
  • How to Get a Business License: What You Need to Know
  • What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

show me a business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Didn't find what you are looking for.

The answer is simple.

It’s an informal business plan that can convince you that your idea makes sense to the outside world because you are investing your time, money, and everything into that idea.

To write a business plan, maybe you think you don’t need a step-by-step guide or a sample business plan . After all, some entrepreneurs achieved success without writing a business plan. With great timing, past business experiences, entrepreneurial ambitions, and a little luck, some entrepreneurs build successful businesses without even writing an informal business plan.

But the odds are greater than those entrepreneurs fail.

And that’s why writing a business plan will help you succeed .

The easiest way to simplify the work of writing a business plan is to start with sample business plans.

What is business plan sample?

Why you should refer a business plan example, who should use business plan examples, how to use sample business plans.

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What is Business Plan Sample?

That’s why we created business plan examples to help you get started.

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Use our 400+ business plan examples written for all industries and write your business plan in half of the time with twice the impact.

show me a business plan

  • Guidance on what to include in each section.  If you’ve never attended business school, you might never have created a  SWOT analysis   or a balance sheet before. Business templates that give guidance — in plain language — about what to include and how to fill in each section and create a complete and effective plan.
  • A business plan is vital to get an investment.  If you’re seeking investment for your business, you’ll need to convince banks and investors why they should invest in your business . Lenders and investors will only risk their time and money if they’re certain that your business will be successful and profitable and they will get a great return on their investment.
  • A business plan can help you prioritize.  A complete, well-balanced business plan is one of the most valuable tools in assisting you to reach your long-term goals. It gives your business direction, defines your goals, outlines out strategies to reach your goals, and helps you to manage possible bumps in the way.

Who should use Business Plan Examples?

show me a business plan

Well Everyone, who wants to write a business plan should use these sample business plans. These plans apply to almost all industries.

We have created a library of professional sample business plans from a wide variety of industries to help you start writing your business plan with minimum effort.

Use our Upmetrics — business plan software that offers step by step guide to start writing your business plan , especially if you’re writing an informal business plan to get a bank loan or outside investment.

Our extensive sample business plans library includes  business plan templates  and  business plan examples  for almost all business industries.

Make your plan in half the time & twice the impact with Upmetrics.

show me a business plan

How to use Business Plan Examples to write your own?

Having real-life and industry-specific business plan examples by your side can be incredibly resourceful to help you write a business plan from scratch. 

A well-planned structure helps you outline your plan, while content inspiration helps you set the tone for your business document. 

Let’s dive deep and understand how to use these examples effectively to write your business plan.

1. Use examples as a guide

2. understanding the structure.

Traditional business plans generally follow a similar structure. 

It starts with an executive summary followed by a company description, market analysis, product and services, sales and marketing strategies, operational plan, management team, financial plan, and appendix.

Using an example business plan is the best way to understand the structure and outline your plan. 

3. Gaining Inspiration

Reading industry-specific business plan examples can help you gain inspiration for your plan. You can gain insights on presenting your business idea, vision, mission, and values and persuade investors to invest in your idea.

4. Learning Industry-Specific Language

There’s no universal template for business planning that fits all. An industry-specific template can help you learn and understand the business language for your industry and the best way to communicate your message to your investors.

5. Identifying Key Elements

Reading business plan examples of similar businesses can help you identify the key elements and information to include in your plan. You can keep note of these and ensure everything necessary for investors to consider is present in your final draft.

6. Crafting Financial Projections

A financial plan is a critical component of your business plan, and a good business plan example can help you better understand how they project their financials which can be incredibly helpful while forecasting yours.

7. Refining Your Executive Summary

As mentioned earlier, your executive summary is a key factor influencing potential investors and lenders to invest or lend you money. Analyzing free business plan templates can help you optimize your executive summary to make it more brief, persuasive, and attention-grabbing.

8. Realizing What Works and What Doesn’t

Analyzing industry-specific and real-life examples can help you determine what works best and what doesn’t within your industry. Understanding these factors can help you avoid many significant pitfalls.

While business plan examples can be incredibly helpful in writing a plan from scratch, ensure your plan is customized for your business and sends out a unique message. Your business plan must reflect its unique idea, vision, and target market.

Using your Business Plan as a Management Tool

It’s essential to have a business plan, but it’s also crucial to keep it up to date as your business progresses. A business plan is not merely a document that you write once and forget after you get started. It’s a business road map and vision that you should develop as your business progresses and evolves. It’s also important to update your business plan regularly as your business situation and position change.

How Business Plan Software can help you?

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We have created Upmetrics — business plan software to simplify the process of business planning.

Our financial forecasting module will create all the essential reports automatically. You just need to enter numbers and the application will do all the math to generate your financial reports. Later you can embed those reports into your business plan.

After completing your business plan, you can download your business plan in PDF or DOC file using Upmetrics. Also, you can share it online with investors or with other important people just by a quick link.

Ready to take the next step?

Now that you have a business idea and you know how to write a business plan, it’s time to go for it . Our business plan software will take you through each step outlined above in more detail so there are no surprises on your journey.

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Founder, CEO & Lead Scientist at Nanolyse Technologies

After trying Upmetrics, I wish to highly recommend this app to anyone who needs to write a business plan flexibly and to a high standard.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sample business plan, how do i write a business plan.

In business plan writing you will need to write the following sections into your business plan. These sections include an Executive Summary, Company Overview, Problem Analysis, The Solution, Market Analysis, Customer Analysis, Competitive Analysis, SWOT Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, and Financial Plan.

Check out our article to learn how you can write these sections in detail for your business plan.

How long should my business plan be?

The length of your business plan depends on the type of plan you choose. There are one-page business plans that offer easy and practical planning. Then you have traditional business plans that usually vary from 20 to 50 pages. It’s worth noting that the quality of your business plan matters more than its length.

Should I hire someone to write my business plan for me?

Absolutely No, You as a business owner know all about your business idea, your business goals, target market and audience, and what you want to achieve by writing your plan. Don’t hire someone who doesn’t know what your readers will want, the reason is that, if you intend to raise funds, you are the best person that understands what investors will look out for in your business plan.

Consultants or  business plan writers  definitely can write a business plan but not better than you.

Looking for a faster way to finish your business plan?

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Writing Your Very First Business Plan? Here’s What You Need To Know

Writing Your Very First Business Plan? Here’s What You Need To Know thumbnail

Pitch deck? Check.

Business cards? Ready to go.

Lucky underwear? Washed and folded.

Business plan? Uh oh.

So you have an amazing business idea , and you’re ready to pitch it to investors or potential partners. But if you’ve never written a business plan before, it can be downright intimidating to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and try to condense your entire professional dream into one document.

But here’s the good news: writing a business plan doesn’t have to be a stumbling block on your path to business ownership. Instead, it can be a powerful tool that clarifies your business vision, guides your steps along your business journey, and helps secure the funding and partnerships you need to flourish.

And this article will help you by simplifying the process of business plan writing into smaller, more manageable pieces as well as highlighting all the essential parts of the plan that will bring your business idea to life.

Our aim here is to empower you with the foundational knowledge you need to draft a comprehensive plan that leads to a successful business. From articulating your business idea to conducting market research, defining your business objectives, making financial projections, and more — by the end of this guide, you’ll not only understand what goes into a business plan but also why it’s fundamental for your business’s success.

So read on, and let’s get started. Here’s everything you need to know to write your very first business plan.

What Is A Business Plan?

What is a business plan used for, how to write a business plan: step-by-step, downloadable business plan template.

A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines your business objectives and details the strategies you’ll use to achieve your goals. It acts as a roadmap for your business, highlighting your plans for product development, marketing , operations, and finance.

It guides your business from the startup phase through establishment and growth, providing direction and helping you to navigate the complexities of running a business.

Types Of Business Plans

"Types of Business Plans" diagram with two stacks of papers: "Traditional Business Plan" and "Lean Startup Business Plan."

Understanding the common types of business plans can help you choose the right one for your business’s needs. Generally, there are two main categories of business plans:

  • Traditional business plan: These are the most common and detailed type of business plan, often favored by banks and investors. A traditional business plan is comprehensive, covering every aspect of the business in depth. This includes executive summaries, company descriptions, market analysis, organization and management structures, sales strategies, funding requests, and financial projections. It’s suited for businesses looking for significant funding or those with a complex business model that calls for a thorough explanation.
  • Lean startup business plan: As opposed to the traditional format, lean startup business plans are streamlined and focus on the core elements of your business. They might include key partnerships, activities, resources, value propositions, customer relationships, channels, customer segments, cost structures, and revenue streams. This format is ideal for businesses that want to launch quickly and iterate on their business model. It’s a living document, meant to be updated and adjusted as you learn more about your customers and your market .

In addition to these, business plans can be prepared to cater to a variety of different scenarios and objectives. These include:

  • Feasibility plan: Before committing significant resources, a feasibility business plan helps determine if your business idea is viable. It focuses on analyzing the market, competition, and financial feasibility of the project, helping you make an informed decision about proceeding with the business idea.
  • Internal business plan: Used primarily for internal purposes, this type of plan focuses on specific goals or projects within the company. It might detail plans for a new product launch, a restructuring of the organization, or any other internal project, without the need for financial projections if external funding is not part of the goal.
  • Strategic business plan: This plan outlines the company’s long-term vision and objectives, along with your strategies to achieve them. It serves as a roadmap for the business’s strategic direction, outlining the company’s future goals and how to reach them.
  • Business acquisition plan: If you’re planning to buy an existing business, a business acquisition plan will guide you through the process. It includes an analysis of the business’s current condition, how you plan to finance the acquisition, and how you will integrate it into your existing operations.
  • Repositioning plan: Designed for businesses looking to change their market position or business model, this plan focuses on strategies for rebranding, targeting new markets, or altering products and services to meet different customer needs.
  • Expansion or growth business plan: For businesses aiming to expand operations, whether by opening new locations, entering new markets, or increasing production capacity, this plan details a strategy for growth. It covers market research, financial projections, and operational plans to help ensure a successful expansion.

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Why Business Plans Are Important

A business plan is more than a document — it’s a reflection of your ambition, vision, and the blueprint to achieve your business dreams. Whether you’re a first-time entrepreneur or an experienced business owner planning to explore a new venture, understanding the fundamentals of a business plan is the first step toward success.

It’s easy to think of a business plan as an old-school formality that isn’t needed anymore now that we’re in the age of fast-moving, agile startups.

However, a business plan isn’t just documentation. Instead, it serves multiple necessary purposes: from crystallizing your business idea to helping secure financing and guiding your strategic direction.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways entrepreneurs still use business plans, even for modern startups and tech companies.

1. Communicating Your Business Idea

A business plan is often your business’s first introduction to investors, partners, and stakeholders. It translates your vision into words and numbers, making it easier for others to understand and believe in your idea.

This document articulates the problem your business intends to solve, the solution it offers, and why it’s uniquely positioned to succeed. It serves as a first impression and a pitch, presenting your business concept in a structured and compelling way to capture the interest of potential backers or collaborators.

Mock-up of an "EcoPack Business Plan" with a "SUMMARY" heading and "Solution" section.

2. Getting Financing For Your Business

One of the most well-known uses of a business plan is to secure financing.

Whether you’re seeking equity investment from venture capitalists, funding from investors, a business loan from a bank, or even support from friends and family, a business plan is a crucial part of that process.

Why? Because it provides potential backers with detailed financial projections, market analyses, and business strategies they want to see before they pitch in. It also demonstrates your business’s potential for growth and profitability, so investors can see how getting involved with you will benefit them.

A thorough and realistic business plan reassures investors and lenders of your business’s viability and your competence as an entrepreneur, which makes it an indispensable tool for fundraising.

3. Documenting Your Business’s Strategy And Goals

A business plan is also an essential tool for internal use. It documents your strategic plan, operational milestones, and the timeline for achieving them. Having a roadmap like this helps guide your team’s efforts, align them with your business’s broader goals, and measure progress as you move forward. It also helps you identify potential challenges and opportunities, so you can proactively manage and respond to market changes.

4. Facilitating Partnerships And Collaborations

A business plan can help secure strategic partnerships and collaborations. It showcases your business model, target market, and competitive advantages, attracting prospective partners who can offer complementary skills, resources, or market access.

5. Guiding Expansion And Growth

For businesses looking to expand, a business plan can outline the strategy for entering new markets or launching new products. It assesses the feasibility of expansion efforts, detailing the required resources, potential hurdles, and projected outcomes.

Now that you know why a business plan is so important, it’s time to learn what goes into writing one.

Drafting your first business plan can seem like a daunting task. With so much information to gather and decisions to make, knowing where to start is often the hardest part.

However, by breaking the process down into manageable steps, you can create a comprehensive and effective business plan that helps your business succeed.

"Elements Of An Effective Business Plan" on the left, and a mock-up of a plan with subheadings on the right.

Here are the steps you need to follow.

Step 1: Executive Summary

Every strong business plan starts with a strong executive summary. The executive summary is the opening act of your business plan. It should give a concise overview of the most important aspects of your business.

Despite being placed at the beginning of your business plan, it’s often best to write this section last. This strategy allows you to distill the essence of what follows into a compelling and informative summary once you have a complete understanding of your business plan.

The purpose of the executive summary is to capture your readers’ attention, whether they are potential investors, partners, or key employees, and motivate them to read the rest of your business plan. It should highlight your business’s mission statement, foundational goals, primary products or services, and provide a brief overview of your market analysis and financial projections.

For startups seeking funding, the executive summary should also include your funding requirements and what it will be used for.

  • Business concept: Start with a clear statement of your business idea, focusing on the problem it solves or the opportunity it creates.
  • Products or services: Briefly describe what you’re offering. Explain how your products or services address the problem or opportunity you’ve identified.
  • Target market: Describe who your potential customers are, the market size, and any market segments you’ve identified. Show that you understand your audience and competitive landscape and there’s a demand for what you’re offering.
  • Competitive advantage: Outline what sets your business apart from the competition. This could be technology, expertise, partnerships, or unique business models.
  • Financial highlights: Give a brief snapshot of key financial projections, including sales, profits, and cash flow, if applicable. For startups, mention the funding you’re seeking and its purpose.
  • Your team: Introduce the core team members and their roles, especially management or leadership team members. Highlight their expertise and how it aligns with the business goals.
  • Your mission statement: Finish with your business’s mission statement, which can help readers understand your core values.

Writing Tips For Your Executive Summary

  • Be concise: The executive summary should be no more than a page or two long. It’s an overview, not a detailed account.
  • Focus on what matters most: Choose the points that are most compelling and relevant to your audience. What would matter most to an investor or a potential partner?
  • Be clear and compelling: Use clear, straightforward language. Avoid jargon and overly technical terms that might obscure your message.
  • Try to capture readers’ interest: Your executive summary should make readers want to learn more about your business. Leave them intrigued and looking forward to the details in the following sections.

All in all, the executive summary sets the tone for the rest of your business plan. It’s your first opportunity to make a strong impression, so make sure that it clearly conveys the essence of your business, its goals, and its strategy for success.

Here’s an example of an executive summary for a bowling alley.

White page set on a blue gradient background for an Executive Summary document.

Step 2: Company Overview

Following the executive summary, the company overview section is like your business plan’s foundation. It provides readers with detailed information about who you are, what you do, and the market needs you aim to fulfill.

This section goes deeper into the details of your business’s identity and history, and the path you’ve charted for its future. It’s an opportunity to share the story of your business, including its inception, evolution, and vision for the future.

Business Name Generator

Get a unique and memorable name that will make your business stand out from the competition. Try our free Business Name Generator now!

The company overview is designed to give readers a clear understanding of your business’s nature, structure, and purpose. It outlines your business model, the specific niche you intend to occupy within the market, and the factors that you believe will contribute to your success. For stakeholders, this section is crucial for understanding the context in which your business operates, including its legal structure, location, history, and the objectives it seeks to achieve.

  • Business name and location: Start with the basics — your business’s official name and its physical or operating locations. If you’re digital or online-based , describe how and where you conduct your business digitally.
  • History and background: Give a brief history of your business. How, when, and why was it founded? What milestones have you achieved so far? This can include the evolution of your product or service, market expansion, or any pivotal shifts you’ve made in your strategy so far.
  • Legal structure: Describe your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company). This affects many aspects of your business, from taxation to your level of personal liability.
  • Industry and market: Detail the industry you operate in and your target market. Highlight the current state of the industry, any trends readers should know about, and the segment of the market you aim to serve.
  • Products or services: While you’ll dive deeper into this in later sections, provide a brief overview of your main offerings and how they meet the needs of your market.
  • Team and management structure: Give a deeper overview of your team members and describe your business’s management team structure. Highlight the experience and expertise that each member brings to the table.

Writing Tips For Your Company Overview

  • Be descriptive but concise: While this section is informational, keep it engaging. Avoid overly technical language or industry jargon that might confuse readers.
  • Showcase your passion for your business: Let your enthusiasm and commitment shine through. Your company overview is not just about the facts but also about painting a picture of your business’s potential and values.
  • Highlight your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Clearly articulate what makes your business unique. Why should customers choose you over the competition? This could be your business model, approach to customer service, product innovation, or any other differentiators.

The company overview sets the stage for the rest of your business plan by providing a clear snapshot of your business at a glance. It’s your chance to introduce readers to the heart and soul of your business, setting the context for the detailed plans and analyses that come next.

Here’s the company summary of that same bowling alley business plan:

A Company Summary white page with sections on company ownership and start-up summary.

Step 3: Business Goals

After setting the stage with your company overview, the next step is to clearly articulate your business goals. This section is critical as it outlines what you aim to achieve in both, the short and long term. It transforms your vision and mission into actionable objectives, giving readers a clear direction for your business and a benchmark against which to measure your progress.

The purpose of the business goals section is to specify your business’s targets and aspirations. These goals should be aligned with your company’s mission, vision, and core values, serving as stepping stones to realizing your broader ambitions. This section communicates to stakeholders what you intend to accomplish, offering a clear framework for decision-making and strategic planning.

  • Short-term goals: These are the objectives you aim to achieve in the near future, typically within the next year. Short-term goals could include launching a new product, entering a new market, increasing your customer base by a certain percentage, or achieving a specific sales target. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound ( SMART ).
  • Long-term goals: These goals reflect your vision for where you want your business to be in the next three to five years or beyond. Long-term goals might involve expanding your business nationally or internationally, diversifying your product line, becoming a market leader, or hitting certain financial milestones. Like short-term goals, these should also be SMART but allow for greater flexibility and vision.
  • Strategies for achieving your goals: For each goal, outline the strategies or actions you plan to take to achieve them. This could include marketing initiatives, product development plans, partnerships, or operational improvements.
  • Milestones to track your progress: Identify key milestones that will serve as indicators of progress toward your goals. These are critical achievements or points in time on your journey to realizing your objectives.
  • Resources you need for each goal: Specify the resources (financial, human, technological, etc.) you will need to achieve your goals. This helps in planning for the acquisition or development of these resources.
  • Challenges and solutions: Acknowledge any potential obstacles that might hinder the achievement of your goals and outline strategies to overcome them. This shows foresight and preparedness.

Writing Tips For Your Business Goals

  • Be specific and realistic: Your goals should be detailed and achievable. Unrealistic goals can demotivate your team and disappoint stakeholders.
  • Quantify your goals wherever possible: Attach numbers to your goals (e.g., revenue targets, market share, customer numbers). This makes your objectives clear and measurable.
  • Be aligned with your business’s values: Make sure your goals are consistent with your company’s core values and mission. Coherence demonstrates integrity and purpose.
  • Be flexible: While it’s important to have clear goals, you must also acknowledge the need for adaptability. Markets and business environments can change, and your goals may need to adjust accordingly.

By clearly defining what you aim to achieve, you provide a roadmap for your team and a compelling case for investors, showing them not just where your business is today, but where it will be tomorrow.

Bowl Weevil's business goals on a white page including mission, objectives, and keys to success.

Step 4: Products And Services

The next step is to dive into the heart of what your business offers: your products and services. This section is where you detail what you’re selling, the benefits it offers to your customers, and how it stands out from what’s already available in the market. It’s not just a catalog of your offerings but a persuasive argument for why your products or services fulfill a need or solve a problem more effectively than your competitors.

The primary purpose of the products and services section is to explain the value proposition of your offerings. You need to convincingly articulate how your products or services meet a need or address a pain point in the market. This section should make it clear why your business exists and how it intends to deliver on its promises to customers. It’s also an opportunity to showcase the innovation, quality, and uniqueness of your offerings, highlighting how they contribute to your business’s overall goals.

  • Detailed descriptions of your offerings: Provide comprehensive descriptions of your products or services, including features, advantages, and specifications. Be clear about how they work and what makes them unique.
  • Benefits: Focus on the benefits your products or services offer to customers. How do they improve your customers’ lives or solve their problems? Be specific about the value they provide.
  • Your market positioning: Explain where your offerings fit in the current market landscape. Who are your competitors, and how do your products or services differ from theirs? This should include pricing strategy, quality, and any unique features or technologies your business offers.
  • Your development pipeline: If your products or services are still in development, outline your progress and future plans. Include timelines, milestones, and any challenges you anticipate.
  • Supply and manufacturing: For physical products, describe how they are produced, your supply chain, and any dependencies or potential risks associated with manufacturing. For services, explain the process of delivery and how you ensure quality and consistency.
  • Patents and copyrights: Mention any intellectual property protections you have in place, such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights.
  • Future offerings: Briefly touch on any future products or services you plan to introduce. This shows investors and readers that you’re thinking ahead and planning for growth and innovation.

Writing Tips For Your Products And Services

  • Use customer-centric language: Write from the perspective of the customer and use language that resonates with them, focusing on how your offerings make their lives better or easier.
  • Include testimonials or use cases: If they’re available, these provide real-world evidence of your products’ or services’ effectiveness and appeal.
  • Be clear and concise: While it’s important to provide detailed information, avoid overwhelming readers with technical jargon or unnecessarily complex descriptions.
  • Use visuals: Whenever possible, include images, diagrams, or links to videos that demonstrate your products or services in action. Visual aids can make your offerings more tangible and understandable.

This section helps make the case to investors, partners, and customers about the value and potential of your business’s offerings. By clearly explaining the benefits and competitive advantages of your products and services, you make the argument for why your business is viable and likely to succeed.

Bowl Weevil's Products and Services pages outlining their offerings including bowling for leagues and video games.

Step 5: Market Analysis

The market analysis section of your business plan is where you demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the industry, your target market, and your competitors. This section provides the factual foundation to support your business strategy, showing that there is a demand for your products or services and detailing how you plan to capture and grow your market share. It’s a critical component that investors scrutinize closely, as it showcases your ability to understand and navigate the market landscape.

The purpose of the market analysis is to prove to your readers, whether they’re potential investors, partners, or even team members, that you’ve done your homework. It’s about showing that your business isn’t just a great idea in theory but is viable and competitive in the real world. This section should answer key questions about the size of your target market, trends and growth potential, customer needs and behaviors, and competitive forces.

  • Industry description: Start with a broad overview of your industry, including its size, growth rate, and trends. Highlight factors affecting the industry, such as technological advancements, regulatory issues, and economic factors.
  • Your target market segment: Narrow your focus to your specific target market. Define your ideal customers based on customer segmentation, demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral factors. Quantify the size of this segment and discuss its growth potential.
  • Market needs and preferences: Delve into what drives your target customers. What are their needs, preferences, and pain points? How does your product or service meet these needs better than the alternatives?
  • Market trends: Identify and explain the key trends affecting your potential market. How are customer needs changing? What technological or social trends could impact your business?
  • Competitive analysis: Provide a detailed analysis of your competitors. Who are they, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Consider using a framework like a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to compare your business with key competitors.
  • Market share and position: Discuss your strategy for capturing and growing your market share. How will you position your business against competitors? What unique selling proposition (USP) will you leverage to stand out?
  • Regulatory or legal factors to consider: Mention any regulatory or legal factors affecting your industry and how you plan to comply. This is especially important for closely regulated industries like healthcare, finance, and food services.

Writing Tips For Your Market Analysis

  • Use reliable data: Support your analysis with up-to-date, reliable data from trusted sources. Charts, graphs, and tables can help illustrate your points more effectively.
  • Be realistic: While it’s important to be optimistic, your analysis also needs to acknowledge potential challenges and how you plan to address them.
  • Know your audience: Tailor your market analysis to your readers. For example, if you’re seeking investment, focus on aspects that highlight market opportunities and your competitive advantage.
  • Stay current: Markets evolve, so update your business plan periodically so your market analysis reflects the most current data and trends.

A thorough market analysis not only proves the viability of your business idea but also demonstrates your strategic thinking and planning capabilities.

Market Analysis diagram with a blue pie chart showing Bowl Weevil's demographic research.

Step 6: Sales And Marketing

After presenting a thorough market analysis, the next step in your business plan is to outline your sales and marketing strategy . This section explains how you intend to attract and retain customers, the channels you’ll use to sell your products or services, and how you’ll position yourself in the competitive landscape. It’s where you translate your understanding of the market into actionable strategies that will drive revenue and growth for your business.

The sales and marketing section demonstrates your approach to entering and growing within the market. It should convey that you have a deep understanding of your target customers, how to reach them effectively, and how to persuade them to choose your offerings over the competition’s. This part of the plan will be essential in the eyes of investors and stakeholders, because it shows how you plan to generate revenue and, ultimately, profit that will give them a return on their investment.

  • Your marketing strategy: Detail your strategy for reaching your target market, including branding, messaging, and the marketing channels you plan to use (e.g., social media, email marketing, SEO, content marketing). Explain how your marketing efforts will align with the needs and behaviors of your target audience.
  • Your sales strategy: Describe your sales process, from lead generation to closing the sale. Include information on sales channels ( online , brick-and-mortar, direct sales, wholesalers), pricing strategy, sales forecasts, and any sales teams or partnerships you plan to leverage.
  • Positioning: Explain how you’ll position your business and offerings within the competitive landscape. What is your unique value proposition (UVP), and how will it appeal to your target market? How does your pricing strategy reflect your positioning?
  • Promotional plans: Describe some of the promotional activities and campaigns you’ll use to attract customers. This could include advertising, special offers, sponsorships, or events. Provide a timeline for these activities and how they fit into your overall marketing and sales funnel.
  • Customer retention strategies: Detail how you plan to retain customers and encourage repeat business. This could involve loyalty programs, customer service policies, or quality guarantees. Discuss how you’ll gather and use customer feedback to improve your offerings and customer experience.
  • Metrics and KPIs: Finally, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics you’ll use to evaluate the success of your sales and marketing efforts. This could include website traffic, conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, retention rates, and sales targets.

Writing Tips For Your Sales And Marketing Plan

  • Focus on differentiation: Clearly state what sets apart your offerings from the competition, and how this will be communicated and marketed to your target audience.
  • Be specific and actionable: Provide specific details about your strategies and tactics, including channels, tools, and technologies you’ll use. Avoid vague statements.
  • Use data to back up your decisions: Reference market analysis data to justify your chosen strategies and demonstrate a data-driven approach to sales and marketing.
  • Include your timeline and budget: Where possible, include timelines for implementing your marketing and sales strategies, as well as budgets for promotional activities. This shows planning and realism in your approach.

The sales and marketing section should convincingly show how you will capture and grow your customer base, driving the revenue needed to support your business goals. It bridges the gap between understanding your market and actively engaging with it, highlighting the strategies that will make your business a success.

"Sales And Marketing Plan" for Bowl Weevil with a graph showing its monthly sales projections from different sources.

Step 7: Logistics and Operations

After detailing your sales and marketing strategy, the next step is to outline the logistics and operations aspects of your business. This section is where you demonstrate how your business will function on a day-to-day basis, including how it will deliver its products or services efficiently and effectively.

The logistics and operations section serves to reassure investors and stakeholders of your business’s ability to operate smoothly. It shows that you have a clear plan for managing the resources and processes that are critical to your business’s success. This part of your business plan is about turning your ideas and strategies into concrete actions and measurable outcomes.

  • Logistics and supply chain management: Describe how your business will manage the procurement of raw materials, inventory, and supply chain operations. Detail any partnerships with suppliers or distributors.
  • Production or service delivery: Explain the processes involved in building your product or delivering your service . Include information on manufacturing facilities, equipment needs, labor requirements, and quality control measures.
  • Business locations and facilities: Describe the location of your business and the facilities required for operation. Explain why the chosen location is ideal for your business, considering factors like customer accessibility, cost, and infrastructure.
  • Technology and equipment: Outline the technology and equipment your business will use. Describe how these tools will enhance your productivity, efficiency, and competitive advantage.
  • Operations plan: Provide a day-to-day plan for your business operations, including roles and responsibilities of team members, workflow processes, and how you’ll handle order fulfillment and customer service.

Writing Tips For Your Logistics, Operations, And Finances Plan

  • Be detailed and realistic: Give specific details to paint a clear picture of your business operations. Use realistic assumptions backed by your market analysis and sales strategies.
  • Use visuals: Graphs, charts, and tables can make your business data easier to understand at a glance.
  • Highlight risk management: Discuss any potential risks to your business operations and how you plan to mitigate them. This shows you’re prepared for challenges.

This section of your business plan is where you demonstrate your understanding of the operational details and complexities of running a business. It provides a clear roadmap for how you intend to transform your vision into a successful and sustainable business.

Bowl Weevil's "Strategy and Implementation Summary" document including a section on competitive edge.

Step 8: Financial Projections

The financial projections section of your business plan is where you translate everything you’ve outlined into numbers. It provides a quantitative analysis of your business’s potential for profitability and growth.

In other words, this section clearly shows investors, lenders, and other stakeholders that your business is financially viable and can offer them a solid return on their investment. It’s where you make your case with numbers, showing the expected financial performance of your business over the next three to five years.

Financial projections prove the economic sustainability of your business model. They offer a forecast of your business’s revenue, expenses, and profitability, and provide a clear picture of your financial health and growth potential. This section can help reassure investors and financial institutions that your business is a sound investment with a strong chance of success. It’s also a valuable internal tool for setting financial goals and measuring performance against those targets.

  • Sales forecast: Estimate the revenue your business will generate over a specific period, usually three to five years. Break down the forecast by product or service lines if applicable.
  • Expense budget: Detail the costs associated with running your business, including both fixed and variable expenses. This should cover everything from rent and salaries to marketing and production costs.
  • Cash flow statement: Provide a monthly or quarterly cash flow projection for the first year and annually thereafter. This will show how cash is expected to move in and out of your business, highlighting periods of cash surplus or shortfall.
  • Income statements (profit and loss statements): Summarize your revenue, costs, and expenses to show your net profit or loss over time. This shows your business’s profitability and financial health.
  • Balance sheet: A balance sheet offers a snapshot of your business’s financial position at a specific point in time, detailing assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Break-even analysis: Calculate the point at which your business will be able to cover its expenses and start generating a profit. This informs investors about the viability and risk level if they choose to back your business.

Writing Tips For Your Financial Projection

  • Be conservative: We say it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver. Use conservative estimates that you can confidently achieve or exceed.
  • Back up your projections: Base your financial projections on solid data and reasonable assumptions. Explain how you arrived at all of your numbers, referencing market research, historical data, or industry benchmarks.
  • Highlight key metrics: Focus on key financial metrics that are most important for your business, such as gross margin, operating margin, and cash flow.
  • Include scenarios: Consider presenting best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenarios. This demonstrates thorough planning and shows that you’re prepared for different possible outcomes.

The financial projections section shows your understanding of your business’s financial dynamics and your ability to plan for its future. It’s not just about impressing investors — it’s also a must-have guide for your business’s financial strategy and management.

"Financial Projections" with a graph indicating net cash flow in green and cash balance in blue.

Step 9: Funding Request (Optional)

For many new businesses, securing external funding is an exciting step toward achieving their goals. This section of your business plan is where you detail your funding requirements.

Whether you’re seeking equity investment, a loan, or another form of financial support, the funding request section lays out exactly how much capital you need, how you plan to use it, and your preferred terms. This section is optional because not every business will seek external funding at the outset or as part of its growth strategy.

The purpose of the funding request section is to provide potential investors or lenders with a clear and concise overview of your financial needs. It’s about articulating why you need the funds, how they will be used to grow your business, and how this investment or loan fits into your broader financial strategy. This section should align with your financial projections and operations plan, showing a direct link between the funding request and your business’s growth potential.

  • How much funding you need: Specify the total amount of funding you are requesting. Be precise, and make sure this number is supported by your financial projections and the way you plan to use the funds.
  • Use of funds: Break down how the requested funds will be used. Categories might include product development, marketing, expanding operations, hiring key staff, or purchasing equipment. Be as detailed as possible to show investors how their money will be spent to drive growth.
  • Type of funding: Specify the type of funding you’re seeking (e.g., equity investment, debt financing, grants). If you’re open to different types of funding, explain the conditions under which you would consider each.
  • Terms: If you have specific terms in mind (for loans or equity investments), outline them here. For equity investments, specify the percentage of ownership you’re offering in exchange for the investment.
  • Future funding: If you anticipate needing more funding in future rounds, mention this. Provide a brief overview of what those future needs might look like and how additional funds will help escalate your growth.
  • Exit strategy: Especially for equity investors, outline your exit strategy. This could include acquisition, public offering, or buying out investors. It shows you’re thinking about the return on their investment.

Writing Tips For Your Funding Request

  • Be direct: This is not the section for ambiguity. State your needs clearly and back them up with solid data from your financial projections.
  • Align funding requests with your business plan: Your funding request should be consistent with your business plan’s other sections, especially your financial projections and use of funds.
  • Focus on ROI: Investors and lenders are interested in the return on their investment. Highlight how funding your business will lead to a profitable outcome for them.
  • Be flexible: While it’s important to specify your needs and preferences, also show that you’re open to discussions about the funding arrangement. Flexibility can be key to securing investment.

The funding request section is a direct appeal to potential investors and lenders to support your business’s growth. It should be persuasive, well-reasoned, and backed by the detailed planning you’ve put into the rest of your business plan. This section is your opportunity to make a compelling case for why investing in your business is a wise and profitable decision.

By now, you should have a solid understanding of what goes into creating a comprehensive and effective business plan that can guide your business to success and attract the investment and support you need. Our downloadable business plan template makes this process even easier!

This template is designed to help you structure your business plan in a way that is clear, concise, and compelling. It includes all the sections we’ve discussed, from the executive summary to the funding request, with helpful prompts and tips to guide your writing. Whether you’re a first-time entrepreneur or a small business owner looking to expand, this template serves as a starting point to customize and develop your unique business plan.

How To Use This Template

  • Customize it: While the template provides a general structure, it’s important to customize the content to reflect your specific business idea, market, and strategy. Make it your own by adding details relevant to your business and industry.
  • Take your time: Writing a business plan isn’t a race. Use the template as a tool to organize your thoughts and research. It’s okay to take your time to ensure that each section is thoughtfully considered and articulated.
  • Seek feedback: Before finalizing your business plan, seek feedback from mentors, peers, or professionals in your industry. Use their insights to refine and improve your plan.
  • Update your business plan as needed: Your business plan should be a living document that evolves as your business grows and as market conditions change. Revisit and update your plan regularly to ensure it remains aligned with your business’s path.

Download the Template

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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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The 7 Best Business Plan Examples (2024)

As an aspiring entrepreneur gearing up to start your own business , you likely know the importance of drafting a business plan. However, you might not be entirely sure where to begin or what specific details to include. That’s where examining business plan examples can be beneficial. Sample business plans serve as real-world templates to help you craft your own plan with confidence. They also provide insight into the key sections that make up a business plan, as well as demonstrate how to structure and present your ideas effectively.

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Example business plan

To understand how to write a business plan, let’s study an example structured using a seven-part template. Here’s a quick overview of those parts:

  • Executive summary: A quick overview of your business and the contents of your business plan.
  • Company description: More info about your company, its goals and mission, and why you started it in the first place.
  • Market analysis: Research about the market and industry your business will operate in, including a competitive analysis about the companies you’ll be up against.
  • Products and services: A detailed description of what you’ll be selling to your customers.
  • Marketing plan: A strategic outline of how you plan to market and promote your business before, during, and after your company launches into the market.
  • Logistics and operations plan: An explanation of the systems, processes, and tools that are needed to run your business in the background.
  • Financial plan: A map of your short-term (and even long-term) financial goals and the costs to run the business. If you’re looking for funding, this is the place to discuss your request and needs.

7 business plan examples (section by section)

In this section, you’ll find hypothetical and real-world examples of each aspect of a business plan to show you how the whole thing comes together. 

  • Executive summary

Your executive summary offers a high-level overview of the rest of your business plan. You’ll want to include a brief description of your company, market research, competitor analysis, and financial information. 

In this free business plan template, the executive summary is three paragraphs and occupies nearly half the page:

  • Company description

You might go more in-depth with your company description and include the following sections:

  • Nature of the business. Mention the general category of business you fall under. Are you a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer of your products?
  • Background information. Talk about your past experiences and skills, and how you’ve combined them to fill in the market. 
  • Business structure. This section outlines how you registered your company —as a corporation, sole proprietorship, LLC, or other business type.
  • Industry. Which business sector do you operate in? The answer might be technology, merchandising, or another industry.
  • Team. Whether you’re the sole full-time employee of your business or you have contractors to support your daily workflow, this is your chance to put them under the spotlight.

You can also repurpose your company description elsewhere, like on your About page, Instagram page, or other properties that ask for a boilerplate description of your business. Hair extensions brand Luxy Hair has a blurb on it’s About page that could easily be repurposed as a company description for its business plan. 

company description business plan

  • Market analysis

Market analysis comprises research on product supply and demand, your target market, the competitive landscape, and industry trends. You might do a SWOT analysis to learn where you stand and identify market gaps that you could exploit to establish your footing. Here’s an example of a SWOT analysis for a hypothetical ecommerce business: 

marketing swot example

You’ll also want to run a competitive analysis as part of the market analysis component of your business plan. This will show you who you’re up against and give you ideas on how to gain an edge over the competition. 

  • Products and services

This part of your business plan describes your product or service, how it will be priced, and the ways it will compete against similar offerings in the market. Don’t go into too much detail here—a few lines are enough to introduce your item to the reader.

  • Marketing plan

Potential investors will want to know how you’ll get the word out about your business. So it’s essential to build a marketing plan that highlights the promotion and customer acquisition strategies you’re planning to adopt. 

Most marketing plans focus on the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. However, it’s easier when you break it down by the different marketing channels . Mention how you intend to promote your business using blogs, email, social media, and word-of-mouth marketing. 

Here’s an example of a hypothetical marketing plan for a real estate website:

marketing section template for business plan

Logistics and operations

This section of your business plan provides information about your production, facilities, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, and inventory.

Financial plan

The financial plan (a.k.a. financial statement) offers a breakdown of your sales, revenue, expenses, profit, and other financial metrics. You’ll want to include all the numbers and concrete data to project your current and projected financial state.

In this business plan example, the financial statement for ecommerce brand Nature’s Candy includes forecasted revenue, expenses, and net profit in graphs.

financial plan example

It then goes deeper into the financials, citing:

  • Funding needs
  • Project cash-flow statement
  • Project profit-and-loss statement
  • Projected balance sheet

You can use Shopify’s financial plan template to create your own income statement, cash-flow statement, and balance sheet. 

Types of business plans (and what to write for each)

A one-page business plan is a pared down version of a standard business plan that’s easy for potential investors and partners to understand. You’ll want to include all of these sections, but make sure they’re abbreviated and summarized:

  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financials 

A startup business plan is meant to secure outside funding for a new business. Typically, there’s a big focus on the financials, as well as other sections that help determine the viability of your business idea—market analysis, for example. Shopify has a great business plan template for startups that include all the below points:

  • Market research: in depth
  • Financials: in depth

Internal 

Your internal business plan acts as the enforcer of your company’s vision. It reminds your team of the long-term objective and keeps them strategically aligned toward the same goal. Be sure to include:

  • Market research

Feasibility 

A feasibility business plan is essentially a feasibility study that helps you evaluate whether your product or idea is worthy of a full business plan. Include the following sections:

A strategic (or growth) business plan lays out your long-term vision and goals. This means your predictions stretch further into the future, and you aim for greater growth and revenue. While crafting this document, you use all the parts of a usual business plan but add more to each one:

  • Products and services: for launch and expansion
  • Market analysis: detailed analysis
  • Marketing plan: detailed strategy
  • Logistics and operations plan: detailed plan
  • Financials: detailed projections

Free business plan templates

Now that you’re familiar with what’s included and how to format a business plan, let’s go over a few templates you can fill out or draw inspiration from.

Bplans’ free business plan template

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Bplans’ free business plan template focuses a lot on the financial side of running a business. It has many pages just for your financial plan and statements. Once you fill it out, you’ll see exactly where your business stands financially and what you need to do to keep it on track or make it better.

PandaDoc’s free business plan template

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PandaDoc’s free business plan template is detailed and guides you through every section, so you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. Filling it out, you’ll grasp the ins and outs of your business and how each part fits together. It’s also handy because it connects to PandaDoc’s e-signature for easy signing, ideal for businesses with partners or a board.

Miro’s Business Model Canvas Template

Miro's business model canvas template

Miro’s Business Model Canvas Template helps you map out the essentials of your business, like partnerships, core activities, and what makes you different. It’s a collaborative tool for you and your team to learn how everything in your business is linked.

Better business planning equals better business outcomes

Building a business plan is key to establishing a clear direction and strategy for your venture. With a solid plan in hand, you’ll know what steps to take for achieving each of your business goals. Kickstart your business planning and set yourself up for success with a defined roadmap—utilizing the sample business plans above to inform your approach.

Business plan FAQ

What are the 3 main points of a business plan.

  • Concept. Explain what your business does and the main idea behind it. This is where you tell people what you plan to achieve with your business.
  • Contents. Explain what you’re selling or offering. Point out who you’re selling to and who else is selling something similar. This part concerns your products or services, who will buy them, and who you’re up against.
  • Cash flow. Explain how money will move in and out of your business. Discuss the money you need to start and keep the business going, the costs of running your business, and how much money you expect to make.

How do I write a simple business plan?

To create a simple business plan, start with an executive summary that details your business vision and objectives. Follow this with a concise description of your company’s structure, your market analysis, and information about your products or services. Conclude your plan with financial projections that outline your expected revenue, expenses, and profitability.

What is the best format to write a business plan?

The optimal format for a business plan arranges your plan in a clear and structured way, helping potential investors get a quick grasp of what your business is about and what you aim to achieve. Always start with a summary of your plan and finish with the financial details or any extra information at the end.

Want to learn more?

  • Question: Are You a Business Owner or an Entrepreneur?
  • Bootstrapping a Business: 10 Tips to Help You Succeed
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset: 20 Ways to Think Like an Entrepreneur
  • 101+ Best Small Business Software Programs 

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Problem Statement

Business Description

Mission Statement

Business Model

Products and Services

Additional Features

Revenue Model

Market Analysis

Target Market

Market Size and Segments

Unique Value Proposition

Risks and Mitigations

Identified Risks

Mitigation Strategies

Financial Overview

Income Statement

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a business plan and why is it important.

  • Initiate with Your Business Concept: Lay the Groundwork: Start by introducing your business idea into Plannit AI's Business Plan Generator. This first step is crucial, as it sets the tone for a tailored, insightful business plan that truly resonates with your vision. Capture the Essence: Our platform is designed to grasp the nuances of your concept, ensuring that the generated plan accurately reflects the core and potential of your business.
  • Navigate Through the AI-Guided Questionnaire: Tailored Interactive Experience: Plannit AI’s AI-guided questionnaire is your interactive guide through the planning process. It meticulously gathers information about your business's objectives, strategies, and market positioning, ensuring a comprehensive and reflective plan. Intelligent Feedback and Suggestions: As you progress through the questionnaire, benefit from smart prompts and suggestions, ensuring that your plan is not just detailed but also strategically sound and aligned with industry standards.
  • Generate Your Plan with Advanced AI: Intuitive Plan Creation: With the questionnaire complete, Plannit AI's advanced algorithms intelligently analyze your responses. They then craft a detailed, customizable, and strategically aligned business plan, providing you with a structured, coherent, and actionable format. Benefit from AI-Powered Insights: Plannit AI offers AI-driven insights and suggestions, ensuring your plan is not just a document but a strategic tool equipped with tailored AI prompts and an in-app plan editor. Get inspired by browsing through our sample business plans, a collection of successful strategies across various industries.
  • Finalize Your Plan with Confidence: Dynamic Adaptation and Refinement: Plannit AI recognizes that a business plan is a living document. Our platform allows for continuous adaptation and refinement, ensuring your strategy remains agile, relevant, and aligned with your evolving business goals. Professional Presentation and Sharing: Once your plan meets your standards, utilize Plannit AI's export features to present your plan professionally. Choose between various formats for exporting your business plan, ready to impress stakeholders, attract investors, or guide your team. Review and Adapt: Ensure your business plan is a living document, ready to evolve with your growing business. Plannit AI's dynamic platform allows you to adapt your strategy as new opportunities or challenges arise.

How to Write a Business Plan?

  • Roadmap for Success: At its core, a business plan acts as a strategic guide, providing detailed steps on how your business will achieve its objectives. It helps you navigate the startup phase, manage growth effectively, and tackle unforeseen challenges with a well-thought-out strategy.
  • Securing Funding: For startups and businesses looking to expand, a business plan is crucial for securing loans or attracting investors. It demonstrates to potential financial backers that your business has a clear vision, a solid strategy for profitability, and a plan for delivering returns on their investment.
  • Informed Decision-Making: A well-prepared business plan offers valuable insights into your market, competition, and potential challenges. This information is vital for making informed decisions, from day-to-day operations to long-term strategic shifts.
  • Market Analysis and Strategy: It allows you to conduct an in-depth analysis of your target market, understand customer needs, and position your product or service effectively. The marketing strategy outlined in your business plan helps in identifying the best channels and tactics to reach your audience and achieve market penetration.
  • Financial Planning: One of the most critical components of a business plan is the financial forecast. It outlines your funding requirements, expected revenue, profit margins, and cash flow projections. This section is essential for budgeting, financial management, and ensuring the financial viability of your business.
  • Goal Setting and Performance Measurement: A business plan sets clear, measurable goals and objectives. It provides a framework for monitoring performance, measuring success, and making necessary adjustments to stay on track.

Who Can Benefit from Plannit AI?

  • Aspiring Entrepreneurs: If you're at the idea stage, looking to transform your vision into a viable business, Plannit AI offers the tools and guidance to bring your concept to life. Our platform helps you articulate your business idea, define your target market, and develop a solid plan to turn your dream into reality.
  • Students and Educators: For students delving into the intricacies of business planning and educators teaching the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, Plannit AI serves as an invaluable resource. It provides a practical, hands-on tool for learning and teaching how to create detailed business plans, analyze markets, and understand financials in a real-world context.
  • Startup Founders: In the dynamic startup environment, Plannit AI is the ideal partner for founders looking to pivot quickly, secure funding, or understand their competitive landscape. With our AI-driven insights and market analysis tools, startups can make informed decisions and adapt their strategies to thrive in competitive markets.
  • Small Business Owners: For small business owners seeking to optimize their operations, expand their customer base, or explore new markets, Plannit AI offers targeted solutions. Our platform simplifies the planning process, enabling owners to focus on growth while managing the day-to-day challenges of running their business.
  • Consultants and Freelancers: Consultants and freelancers specializing in business development, strategic planning, or financial advising will find Plannit AI a powerful addition to their toolkit. It allows them to provide clients with comprehensive, data-driven business plans and strategies, enhancing the value of their services.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Leaders of non-profit organizations can leverage Plannit AI to plan initiatives, secure funding, and manage resources more efficiently. Our platform helps non-profits articulate their mission, set achievable goals, and measure their impact, ensuring they can make a difference in their communities.
  • Innovators and Inventors: Individuals looking to commercialize innovative products or technologies can use Plannit AI to navigate the complexities of bringing new ideas to market. From patent strategies to go-to-market plans, our platform covers all bases, ensuring innovators can focus on what they do best.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Government Agencies: Government and SBA backed entities can greatly benefit from integrating Plannit AI into their services, enhancing their ability to support a larger number of clients more efficiently. By facilitating quicker, more in-depth business plan development, these organizations can spend more time assisting with plan execution and less time on creation, ultimately serving their communities more effectively.
  • Anyone with a Business Idea: Ultimately, Plannit AI is for anyone with a business idea, regardless of industry, experience, or stage of business development. Our mission is to democratize business planning, making it accessible, understandable, and actionable for everyone.

Why is Plannit AI the best choice for an AI business planning software?

  • Interactive Questionnaire and ChatGPT Integration: Plannit AI transforms the business planning process into an engaging conversation. Through our advanced ChatGPT integration, we offer a questionnaire that dynamically adapts to your responses, ensuring your plan is personalized, comprehensive, and aligned with your business goals.
  • Dynamic Planning Environment: Unlike static templates provided by many, Plannit AI introduces a living platform that grows with your business. It features real-time updates, strategic insights, and a feedback mechanism that keeps your business plan current and actionable.
  • Extensive Educational Resources: Our Education Center is packed with articles, guides, and sample plans to bolster your planning process. It's designed to arm you with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of your industry confidently.
  • Enhanced Collaboration and Customization: Recognizing the collaborative essence of business planning, Plannit AI supports team efforts with multi-user editing, annotations, and feedback features, ensuring a comprehensive approach to your strategy.
  • Customer Success Stories: Our users' achievements are a testament to Plannit AI's effectiveness. These success stories illustrate how diverse businesses have utilized our platform for strategic planning and growth.
  • Tailored Business Plan Creation: Our platform stands out with its tailored approach, featuring customizable templates that directly cater to your business type and industry, making plan creation straightforward and relevant.

How can ChatGPT help me to create business plans?

  • Content Generation:: ChatGPT helps draft various sections of a business plan, from executive summaries to marketing strategies, by providing structured and coherent text based on the prompts given.
  • Strategic Insights: It can offer suggestions on business strategies by analyzing trends and providing examples from a wide range of industries.
  • Financial Planning: While it can't replace professional financial advice, ChatGPT can guide the structure of financial projections and statements, helping you consider important financial aspects of your plan.

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Blog Business

How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates] 

By Letícia Fonseca , Aug 11, 2023

business plan outline

When venturing into crafting a business plan, the initial hurdle often lies in taking that first step.

So, how can you evade those prolonged hours of staring at a blank page? Initiate your journey with the aid of a business plan outline.

As with any endeavor, an outline serves as the beacon of clarity, illuminating the path to confront even the most formidable tasks. This holds particularly true when composing pivotal documents vital to your triumph, much like a business plan.

Nonetheless, I understand the enormity of a business plan’s scope, which might make the task of outlining it seem daunting. This is precisely why I’ve compiled all the requisite information to facilitate the creation of a business plan outline. No need to break a sweat!

And if you’re seeking further assistance, a business plan maker and readily available business plan templates can offer valuable support in shaping your comprehensive plan.

Read on for answers to all your business plan outline questions or jump ahead for some handy templates. 

Click to jump ahead:

What is a business plan outline (and why do you need one), what format should you choose for your business plan outline, what are the key components of a business plan outline.

  • Business plan template examples
  • Writing tips to ace your outline 

A business plan outline is the backbone of your business plan. It contains all the most important information you’ll want to expand on in your full-length plan. 

Think of it this way: your outline is a frame for your plan. It provides a high-level idea of what the final plan should look like, what it will include and how all the information will be organized. 

Why would you do this extra step? Beyond saving you from blank page syndrome, an outline ensures you don’t leave any essential information out of your plan — you can see all the most important points at a glance and quickly identify any content gaps. 

It also serves as a writing guide. Once you know all the sections you want in your plan, you just need to expand on them. Suddenly, you’re “filling in the blanks” as opposed to writing a plan from scratch!

Incidentally, using a business plan template like this one gives you a running head start, too: 

business plan outline

Perhaps most importantly, a business plan outline keeps you focused on the essential parts of your document. (Not to mention what matters most to stakeholders and investors.)  With an outline, you’ll spend less time worrying about structure or organization and more time perfecting the actual content of your document. 

If you’re looking for more general advice, you can read about  how to create a business plan here . But if you’re working on outlining your plan, stick with me.

Return to Table of Contents

Most business plans fit into one of two formats. 

The format you choose largely depends on three factors: (1) the stage of your business, (2) if you’re presenting the plan to investors and (3) what you want to achieve with your business plan. 

Let’s have a closer look at these two formats and why you might choose one over the other.

Traditional format

Traditional business plans  are typically long, detailed documents. In many cases, they take up to 50-60 pages, but it’s not uncommon to see plans spanning 100+ pages. 

Traditional plans are long because they cover  every aspect  of your business. They leave nothing out. You’ll find a traditional business plan template with sections like executive summary, company description, target market, market analysis, marketing plan, financial plan, and more. Basically: the more information the merrier.

This business plan template isn’t of a traditional format, but you could expand it into one by duplicating pages:

business plan outline

Due to their high level of detail, traditional formats are the best way to sell your business. They show you’re reliable and have a clear vision for your business’s future. 

If you’re planning on presenting your plan to investors and stakeholders, you’ll want to go with a traditional plan format. The more information you include, the fewer doubts and questions you’ll get when you present your plan, so don’t hold back. 

Traditional business plans require more detailed outlines before drafting since there’s a lot of information to cover. You’ll want to list all the sections and include bullet points describing what each section should cover. 

It’s also a good idea to include all external resources and visuals in your outline, so you don’t have to gather them later. 

Lean format

Lean business plan formats are high level and quick to write. They’re often only one or two pages. Similar to a  business plan infographic , they’re scannable and quick to digest, like this template: 

business plan outline

This format is often referred to as a “startup” format due to (you guessed it!) many startups using it. 

Lean business plans require less detailed outlines. You can include high-level sections and a few lines in each section covering the basics. Since the final plan will only be a page or two, you don’t need to over prepare. Nor will you need a ton of external resources. 

Lean plans don’t answer all the questions investors and stakeholders may ask, so if you go this route, make sure it’s the right choice for your business . Companies not yet ready to present to investors will typically use a lean/startup business plan format to get their rough plan on paper and share it internally with their management team. 

Here’s another example of a lean business plan format in the form of a financial plan: 

business plan outline

Your business plan outline should include all the following sections. The level of detail you choose to go into will depend on your intentions for your plan (sharing with stakeholders vs. internal use), but you’ll want every section to be clear and to the point. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary gives a high-level description of your company, product or service. This section should include a mission statement, your company description, your business’s primary goal, and the problem it aims to solve. You’ll want to state how your business can solve the problem and briefly explain what makes you stand out (your competitive advantage).

Having an executive summary is essential to selling your business to stakeholders , so it should be as clear and concise as possible. Summarize your business in a few sentences in a way that will hook the reader (or audience) and get them invested in what you have to say next. In other words, this is your elevator pitch.

business plan outline

2. Product and services description

This is where you should go into more detail about your product or service. Your product is the heart of your business, so it’s essential this section is easy to grasp. After all, if people don’t know what you’re selling, you’ll have a hard time keeping them engaged!

Expand on your description in the executive summary, going into detail about the problem your customers face and how your product/service will solve it. If you have various products or services, go through all of them in equal detail. 

business plan outline

3. Target market and/or Market analysis

A market analysis is crucial for placing your business in a larger context and showing investors you know your industry. This section should include market research on your prospective customer demographic including location, age range, goals and motivations. 

You can even  include detailed customer personas  as a visual aid — these are especially useful if you have several target demographics. You want to showcase your knowledge of your customer, who exactly you’re selling to and how you can fulfill their needs.

Be sure to include information on the overall target market for your product, including direct and indirect competitors and how your industry is performing. If your competitors have strengths you want to mimic or weaknesses you want to exploit, this is the place to record that information. 

business plan outline

4. Organization and management

You can think of this as a “meet the team” section — this is where you should go into depth on your business’s structure from management to legal and HR. If there are people bringing unique skills or experience to the table (I’m sure there are!), you should highlight them in this section. 

The goal here is to showcase why your team is the best to run your business. Investors want to know you’re unified, organized and reliable. This is also a potential opportunity to bring more humanity to your business plan and showcase the faces behind the ideas and product. 

business plan outline

5. Marketing and sales

Now that you’ve introduced your product and team, you need to explain how you’re going to sell it. Give a detailed explanation of your sales and marketing strategy, including pricing, timelines for launching your product and advertising.

This is a major section of your plan and can even live as a separate document for your marketing and sales teams. Here are some  marketing plan templates to help you get started .

Make sure you have research or analysis to back up your decisions — if you want to do paid ads on LinkedIn to advertise your product, include a brief explanation as to why that is the best channel for your business. 

business plan outline

6. Financial projections and funding request

The end of your plan is where you’ll look to the future and how you think your business will perform financially. Your financial plan should include results from your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow projections. 

State your funding requirements and what you need to realize the business. Be extremely clear about how you plan to use the funding and when you expect investors will see returns.

If you aren’t presenting to potential investors, you can skip this part, but it’s something to keep in mind should you seek funding in the future. Covering financial projections and the previous five components is essential at the stage of business formation to ensure everything goes smoothly moving forward.

business plan outline

7. Appendix

Any extra visual aids, receipts, paperwork or charts will live here. Anything that may be relevant to your plan should be included as reference e.g. your cash flow statement (or other financial statements). You can format your appendix in whatever way you think is best — as long as it’s easy for readers to find what they’re looking for, you’ve done your job!

Typically, the best way to start your outline is to list all these high-level sections. Then, you can add bullet points outlining what will go in each section and the resources you’ll need to write them. This should give you a solid starting point for your full-length plan.

Business plan outline templates

Looking for a shortcut? Our  business plan templates  are basically outlines in a box! 

While your outline likely won’t go into as much detail, these templates are great examples of how to organize your sections.

Traditional format templates

A strong template can turn your long, dense business plan into an engaging, easy-to-read document. There are lots to choose from, but here are just a few ideas to inspire you… 

You can duplicate pages and use these styles for a traditional outline, or start with a lean outline as you build your business plan out over time:

business plan outline

Lean format templates

For lean format outlines, a simpler ‘ mind map ’ style is a good bet. With this style, you can get ideas down fast and quickly turn them into one or two-page plans. Plus, because they’re shorter, they’re easy to share with your team.

business plan outline

Writing tips to ace your business plan outline

Business plans are complex documents, so if you’re still not sure how to write your outline, don’t worry! Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when drafting your business plan outline:

  • Ask yourself why you’re writing an outline. Having a clear goal for your outline can help keep you on track as you write. Everything you include in your plan should contribute to your goal. If it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t need to be in there.
  • Keep it clear and concise. Whether you’re writing a traditional or lean format business plan, your outline should be easy to understand. Choose your words wisely and avoid unnecessary preambles or padding language. The faster you get to the point, the easier your plan will be to read.
  • Add visual aids. No one likes reading huge walls of text! Make room in your outline for visuals, data and charts. This keeps your audience engaged and helps those who are more visual learners. Psst,  infographics  are great for this.
  • Make it collaborative. Have someone (or several someones) look it over before finalizing your outline. If you have an established marketing / sales / finance team, have them look it over too. Getting feedback at the outline stage can help you avoid rewrites and wasted time down the line.

If this is your first time writing a business plan outline, don’t be too hard on yourself. You might not get it 100% right on the first try, but with these tips and the key components listed above, you’ll have a strong foundation. Remember, done is better than perfect. 

Create a winning business plan by starting with a detailed, actionable outline

The best way to learn is by doing. So go ahead, get started on your business plan outline. As you develop your plan, you’ll no doubt learn more about your business and what’s important for success along the way. 

A clean, compelling template is a great way to get a head start on your outline. After all, the sections are already separated and defined for you! 

Explore Venngage’s business plan templates  for one that suits your needs. Many are free to use and there are premium templates available for a small monthly fee. Happy outlining!

Sample Business Plan

Learn the Essential Elements of a Full Business Plan

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The following business plan for the fictional firm of "Acme Management Technology" (AMT) is an example of what a completed business plan might look like. This example is provided as part of the instructions and detailed descriptions included in the Components of a Business Plan.

Sample Business Plan for Acme Management Technology

1.0 executive summary.

By focusing on its strengths, its key customers , and the company's underlying core values, Acme Management Technology will increase sales to more than $10 million in three years, while also improving the gross margin on sales and cash management and working capital .

This business plan leads the way by renewing our vision and strategic focus of adding value to our target market segments—the small business and high-end home office users in our local market. It also provides a step-by-step plan for improving our sales, gross margin, and profitability.

This plan includes this summary, and chapters on the company, products & services, market focus, action plans & forecasts, management team, and financial plan.

1.1 Objectives

  • Sales increased to more than $10 million by the third year.
  • Bring gross margin back up to above 25% and maintain that level.
  • Sell $2 million of service, support, and training by 2022.
  • Improve inventory turnover to six turns next year, seven in 2021, and eight in 2022.

1.2 Mission

AMT is built on the assumption that the management of information technology for business is like legal advice, accounting, graphic arts, and other bodies of knowledge, in that it is not inherently a do-it-yourself prospect. Smart business people who aren't computer hobbyists need to find quality vendors of reliable hardware, software, service, and support and they need to use these quality vendors as they use their other professional service suppliers—as trusted allies.

AMT is such a vendor. It serves its clients as a trusted ally, providing them with the loyalty of a business partner and the economics of an outside vendor. We make sure that our clients have what they need in order to run their businesses at peak performance levels, with maximum efficiency and reliability.

Many of our information applications are mission-critical, so we assure our clients that we'll be there when they need us.

1.3 Keys to Success

  • Differentiate from box-pushing, price-oriented businesses by offering and delivering service and support—and charging for it accordingly.
  • Increase gross margin to more than 25%.
  • Increase our non-hardware sales to 20% of the total sales by the third year.

2.0 Company Summary

AMT is a 10-year-old computer reseller with sales of $7 million per year, declining margins, and market pressure. It has a good reputation, excellent people, and a steady position in the local market, but has been having difficulty maintaining healthy financials.

2.1 Company Ownership

AMT is a privately-held C corporation owned in majority by its founder and president, Ralph Jones. There are six part owners, including four investors and two past employees. The largest of these (in percent of ownership) are Frank Dudley, our attorney, and Paul Karots, our public relations consultant. Neither owns more than 15%, but both are active participants in management decisions.

2.2 Company History

AMT has been caught in the vise grip of margin squeezes that have affected computer resellers worldwide. Although the chart titled "Past Financial Performance" shows that we've had healthy growth in sales, it also indicates declining gross margin and declining profits .

The more detailed numbers in Table 2.2 include other indicators of some concern: As can be seen in the chart, the gross margin percentage has been declining steadily, and nventory turnover is getting steadily worse as well.

All of these concerns are part of the general trend affecting computer resellers. The margin squeeze is happening throughout the computer industry, worldwide.

Balance Sheet: 2018

Short-Term Assets

  • Cash—$55,432
  • Accounts receivable—$395,107
  • Inventory—$651,012
  • Other Short-term Assets—$25,000
  • Total Short-term Assets—$1,126,551

Long-Term Assets

  • Capital Assets—$350,000
  • Accumulated Depreciation—$50,000
  • Total Long-term Assets—$300,000
  • Total Assets—$1,426,551

Debt and Equity

  • Accounts Payable—$223,897
  • Short-term Notes—$90,000
  • Other ST Liabilities—$15,000
  • Subtotal Short-term Liabilities—$328,897
  • Long-term Liabilities—$284,862
  • Total Liabilities—$613,759
  • Paid in Capital—$500,000
  • Retained Earnings—$238,140
  • Earnings (over three years)—$437,411, $366,761, $74,652
  • Total Equity—$812,792
  • Total Debt and Equity—$1,426,551

Other Inputs: 2017

  • Payment days—30
  • Sales on credit—$3,445,688
  • Receivables turnover—8.72%

2.4 Company Locations and Facilities

We have one location—a 7,000 square-foot brick & mortar facility located in a suburban shopping center conveniently close to the downtown area. Along with sales, it includes a training area, service department, offices, and showroom area.

3.0 Products and Services

AMT sells personal computer technology for small business including personal computer hardware, peripherals, networks, software, support, service, and training.

Ultimately, we are selling information technology . We sell reliability and confidence. We sell the assurance to small business people that their business will not suffer any information technology disasters or critical downtimes.

AMT serves its clients as a trusted ally, providing them with the loyalty of a business partner and the economics of an outside vendor. We make sure that our clients have what they need to run their businesses at peak performance levels, with maximum efficiency and reliability. Since many of our information applications are mission-critical, we give our clients the confidence that we'll be there when they need us.

3.1 Product and Service Description

In personal computers , we support three main lines:

  • The Super Home is our smallest and least expensive, initially positioned by its manufacturer as a home computer. We use it mainly as an inexpensive workstation for small business installations. Its specifications include: (add relevant information)
  • The Power User is our main up-scale line and our most important system for high-end home and small business main workstations, because of (add relevant information) Its key strengths are: (add relevant information) Its specifications include: (add relevant information)
  • The Business Special is an intermediate system, used to fill the gap in positioning. Its specifications include: (add information)

In peripherals , accessories and other hardware, we carry a complete line of necessary items from cables to forms to mousepads to... (add relevant information)

In service and support , we offer a range of walk-in or depot service, maintenance contracts, and on-site guarantees. We haven't had much success in selling service contracts. Our networking capabilities include... (add relevant information)

In software , we sell a complete line of... (add relevant information)

In training , we offer... (add relevant information)

3.2 Competitive Comparison

The only way we can hope to differentiate effectively is to brand the vision of the company as a trusted information technology ally to our clients. We will not be able to compete in any effective way with the chains using boxes or products as appliances. We need to offer a real alliance that feels personal.

The benefits we sell include many intangibles: confidence, reliability, knowing that somebody will be there to answer questions and help at critical times.

These are complex products that require serious knowledge and experience to use, which we have, while our competitors sell only the products themselves.

Unfortunately, we cannot sell the products at a higher price simply because we offer services; the market has shown that it will not support that concept. We must also sell the service and charge for it separately.

3.3 Sales Literature

Copies of our brochure and advertisements are attached as appendices. Of course, one of our first tasks will be to change the messaging of our literature to make sure we are selling the company, rather than the product.

3.4 Sourcing

Our costs are part of the margin squeeze. As price competition increases, the squeeze between the manufacturer's price into channels and the end-users ultimate buying price continues.

Our margins are declining steadily for our hardware lines. We generally buy at... (add relevant information) Our margins are thus being squeezed from 25% from five years ago to closer to 13 to 15% at present. A similar trend shows for our main-line peripherals, with prices for printers and monitors declining steadily. We are also starting to see that same trend with software...(add relevant information)

To hold costs down as much as possible, we concentrate our purchasing with Hauser, which offers 30-day net terms and overnight shipping from the warehouse in Dayton. We need to continue to make sure our volume gives us negotiating strength.

In accessories and add-ons, we can still get decent margins of 25 to 40%.

For software, margins are: (add relevant information)

3.5 Technology

For years, we have supported both Windows and Macintosh technology for CPUs, although we've switched vendors many times for the Windows (and previously DOS) lines. We are also supporting Novell, Banyon, and Microsoft networking, Xbase database software, and Claris application products.

3.6 Future Products and Services

We must remain on top of emerging technologies because this is our bread and butter. For networking, we need to provide better knowledge of cross-platform technologies. We are also under pressure to improve our understanding of the direct-connect Internet and related communications. Finally, although we have a good command of desktop publishing, we are concerned about improving integrated fax, copier, printer, and voicemail technology into the computer system.

4.0 Market Analysis Summary

AMT focuses on local markets, small business, and home office, with a special focus on the high-end home office and the five-to-20 unit small business office.

4.1 Market Segmentation

The segmentation allows some room for estimates and nonspecific definitions. We focus on a small-medium level of small business, and it's hard to locate data to make an exact classification. Our target companies are large enough to require the kind of high-quality information technology management we offer but too small to have a separate computer management staff (such as an MIS department). We say that our target market has 10 to 50 employees, and requires five to 20 connect workstations in a local area network, however, the definition is flexible.

Defining the high-end home office is even more difficult. We generally know the characteristics of our target market, but we can't find easy classifications that fit into available demographics. The high-end home office business is a business, not a hobby. It generates enough money to merit the owner's paying real attention to the quality of information technology management, meaning that both budget and productivity concerns warrant working with our level of quality service and support. We can assume that we aren't talking about home offices used only part-time by people who work elsewhere during the day and that our target market home office needs powerful technology and sufficient links between computing, telecommunications, and video assets.

4.2 Industry Analysis

We are part of the computer reselling business, which includes several kinds of businesses:

  • Computer dealers : storefront computer resellers, usually less than 5,000 square feet, often focused on a few main brands of hardware, usually offering only a minimum of software and variable amounts of service and support. Many are old-fashioned (1980s-style) computer stores that offer relatively few reasons for buyers to shop with them. Their service and support are not usually very good, and their prices are normally higher than those at larger stores.
  • Chain stores and computer superstores : these include major chains such as CompUSA, Best Buy, Future Shop, etc. They almost always have a footprint of over 10,000 square feet of space, usually offer decent walk-in service, and are often warehouse-like locations where people go to find products in boxes with very aggressive pricing, but little support.
  • Mail order/Online retailers : the market is served increasingly by mail order and online retailers that offer aggressive pricing of a boxed product. For the purely price-driven buyer, who buys boxes and expects no service, these are very good options.
  • Others : there are many other channels through which people buy their computers, however, most are variations of the three main types above.

4.2.1 Industry Participants

  • The national chains are a growing presence: CompUSA, Best Buy, and others. They benefit from national advertising, economies of scale, volume buying, and a general trend toward name-brand loyalty for buying in the channels as well as for products.
  • Local computer stores are threatened. These tend to be small businesses, owned by people who started them because they liked computers. They are under-capitalized and under-managed. Margins are squeezed as they compete against chains, in a competition based on price more than on service and support.

4.2.2 Distribution Patterns

Small business buyers are accustomed to buying from vendors who visit their offices. They expect the copy machine vendors, office products vendors, and office furniture vendors, as well as the local graphic artists, freelance writers, or whomever, to visit their office to make their sales.

There is usually a lot of leakage in ad-hoc purchasing through local chain stores and mail order. Often the administrators try to discourage this but are only partially successful.

Unfortunately, our home office target buyers don't expect to buy from us. Many of them turn immediately to the superstores (office equipment, office supplies, and electronics) and mail order to look for the best price, without realizing that there is a better option for them at only a little bit more.

4.2.3 Competition and Buying Patterns

The small business buyers understand the concept of service and support and are much more likely to pay for it when the offering is clearly stated.

There is no doubt that we face stiffer competition from box pushers than from other service providers. We need to effectively compete against the idea that businesses should buy computers as plug-in appliances that don't need ongoing service, support, and training.

Our focus group sessions indicated that our target home office buyers think about the price but would buy based on quality service if the offering were properly presented. They think about the price because that's all they ever see. We have very good indications that many would rather pay 10 to 20% more for a relationship with a long-term vendor providing back-up and quality service and support, however, they end up in the box-pusher channels because they aren't aware of the alternatives.

Availability is also very important. The home office buyers tend to want immediate, local solutions to problems.

4.2.4 Main Competitors

Chain stores:

  • We have Store 1 and Store 2 already within the valley, and Store 3 is expected by the end of next year. If our strategy works, we will have differentiated ourselves sufficiently to avoid competition against these stores.
  • Strengths: national image, high volume, aggressive pricing, economies of scale.
  • Weaknesses: lack of product, service and support knowledge, lack of personal attention.

Other local computer stores:

  • Store 4 and Store 5 are both in the downtown area. They are both competing against the chains in an attempt to match prices. When asked, the owners will complain that margins are squeezed by the chains and customers buy based on price only. They say they tried offering services and that buyers didn't care, instead preferring lower prices. We think the problem is that they didn't really offer good service, and also that they didn't differentiate from the chains.

4.3 Market Analysis

The home offices in Tintown are an important growing market segment. Nationally, there are approximately 30 million home offices, and the number is growing at 10% per year. Our estimate in this plan for the home offices in our market service area is based on an analysis published four months ago in the local newspaper.

There are several types of home offices. For the focus of our plan, the most important are those that are real businesses offices from which people earn their primary income. These are likely to be people in professional services such as graphic artists, writers, and consultants, some accountants—and the occasional lawyer, doctor, or dentist. We will not be focusing on the market segment that includes part-time home offices with people who are employed during the day but work at home at night, people who work at home to provide themselves with a part-time income, or people who maintain home offices relating to their hobbies.

Small business within our market includes virtually any business with a retail, office, professional, or industrial location outside of the home, and fewer than 30 employees. We estimate there are 45,000 such businesses in our market area.

The 30-employee cutoff is arbitrary. We find that the larger companies turn to other vendors, but we can sell to departments of larger companies, and we shouldn't give up such leads when we get them.

Market Analysis . . . (numbers and percentages)

5.0 Strategy and Implementation Summary

  • Emphasize service and support.

We must differentiate ourselves from the box pushers. We need to establish our business offering as a clear and viable alternative to the price-only kind of buying for our target market.

  • Build a relationship-oriented business.

Build long-term relationships with clients, not single-transaction deals with customers. Become their computer department, not just a vendor. Make them understand the value of the relationship.

  • Focus on target markets.

We need to focus our offerings on small business as the key market segment we should own. This means the five to 20 unit system, connected by a local area network, in a company with five to 50 employees. Our values—training, installation, service, support, knowledge—are more clearly differentiated in this segment.

As a corollary, the high end of the home office market is also appropriate. We do not want to compete for buyers who go to chain stores or buy from mail-order outlets, but we definitely want to be able to sell individual systems to the smart home office buyers who want a reliable, full-service vendor.

  • Differentiate and fulfill the promise.

We can't just market and sell service and support; we must deliver as well. We need to make sure we have the knowledge-intensive business and service-intensive business we claim to have.

5.1 Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy is the core of the main strategy:

  • Emphasize service and support
  • Build a relationship business
  • Focus on small business and high-end home office as key target markets

5.1.2 Pricing Strategy

We must charge appropriately for the high-end, high-quality service and support we offer. Our revenue structure has to match our cost structure, so the salaries we pay to assure good service and support must be balanced by the revenue we charge.

We cannot build the service and support revenue into the price of products. The market can't bear the higher prices, and the buyer feels ill-used when they see the same product priced lower at the chains. Despite the logic behind it, the market doesn't support this concept.

Therefore, we must make sure that we deliver and charge for service and support. Training, service, installation, networking support—all of this must be readily available and priced to sell and deliver revenue.

5.1.3 Promotion Strategy

We depend on newspaper advertising as our main outlet to reach new buyers. As we change strategies, however, we need to change the way we promote ourselves:

  • Advertising

We'll be developing our core positioning message: "24 Hour On-Site Service—365 Days a Year With No Extra Charges" to differentiate our service from the competition. We will be using local newspaper advertising, radio, and cable TV to launch the initial campaign.

  • Sales Brochure

Our collaterals have to sell the store and visiting the store, not the specific book or discount pricing.

  • Direct Mail 

We must radically improve our direct mail efforts, reaching our established customers with training, support services, upgrades, and seminars.

  • Local Media

It's time to work more closely with the local media . We could offer the local radio station a regular talk show on technology for small business, as one example. We could also reach out to local news outlets to let them know we have experts who are able to address issues relating to technology for small business/home offices should the need arise.

5.2 Sales Strategy

  • We need to sell the company, not the product. We sell AMT, not Apple, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, or Compaq, or any of our software brand names.
  • We have to sell our service and support. The hardware is like the razor, and the support, service, software services, training, and seminars are the razor blades. We need to serve our customers with what they need.

The Yearly Total Sales chart summarizes our ambitious sales forecast. We expect sales to increase from $5.3 million last year to more than $7 million next year and to more than $10 million in the last year of this plan.

5.2.1 Sales Forecast

The important elements of the sales forecast are shown in the Total Sales by Month in Year 1 table. The non-hardware sales increase to about $2 million total in the third year.

Sales Forecast … (numbers and percentages)

5.2.2 Startup Summary

  • 93% of startup costs will go to assets.
  • The building will be purchased with a down payment of $8,000 on a 20-year mortgage. The espresso machine will cost $4,500 (straight-line depreciation, three years).
  • Startup costs will be financed through a combination of owner investment, short-term loans, and long-term borrowing. The startup chart shows the distribution of financing.

Other miscellaneous expenses include:

  • Marketing/advertising consultancy fees of $1,000 for our company logo and assistance in designing our grand-opening ads and brochures.
  • Legal fees for corporate organization filings: $300.
  • Retail merchandising/designing consultancy fees of $3,500 for store layout and fixture purchasing.
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show me a business plan

10 Simple Tips to Write a Successful Business Plan

"The absolute biggest business plan mistake you can make is to not plan at all." So writes Noah Parsons in his helpful blog post 17 Key Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid in 2023 . But how does one pull together all of the necessary components of a cohesive plan? It can feel overwhelming.

Eric Butow, CEO of online marketing ROI improvement firm Butow Communications Group, has teamed up with Entrepreneur Media to update the second edition of our best-selling book Write Your Business Plan to provide you with a simple, step-by-step process for creating a successful business plan. In the following excerpt, he gives ten tips to gather all of the critical information you will need to succeed.

1. Know your competition.

You need to name them and point out what makes you different from (and better than) each of them. But do not disparage your competition.

2. Know your audience.

You may need several versions of your business plan. For example, you may need one for bankers or venture capitalists, one for individual investors, and one for companies that may want to do a joint venture with you rather than fund you.

3. Have proof to back up every claim you make.

If you expect to be the leader in your field in six months, you have to say why you think that is. If you say your product will take the market by storm, you have to support this statement with facts. If you say your management team is fully qualified to make the business a success, be sure staff resumes demonstrate their experience.

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4. Be conservative in all financial estimates and projections.

If you feel certain you'll capture 50 percent of the market in the first year, you can say why you think so and hint at what those numbers may be. But make your financial projections more conservative. For example, a 10 percent market share is much more credible.

5. Be realistic with time and resources available.

If you're working with a big company before you buy a business, you may think things will happen faster than they will once you have to buy the supplies, write the checks, and answer the phones yourself. Being overly optimistic with time and resources is a common error entrepreneurs make. Being realistic is important because it lends credibility to your presentation. Always assume things will take 20 percent longer than you anticipated. Therefore, twenty weeks is now twenty-four weeks.

6. Be logical.

Think like a banker and write what they would want to see.

7. Have a strong management team.

Make sure it has good credentials and expertise. Your team members don't have to have worked in the field. However, you need to draw parallels between what they've done and the skills needed to make your venture succeed. Don't have all the skills you need? Consider adding an advisory board of people skilled in your field and include their resumes.

Write Your Own Business Plan is available now at Entrepreneur Bookstore | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

8. Document why your idea will work.

Have others done something similar that was successful? Have you made a prototype? Include all the variables that can have an impact on the result or outcome of your idea. Show why some of the variables don't apply to your situation or explain how you intend to overcome them or make them better.

9. Describe your facilities and location for performing the work.

That includes equipment you use to create your products and/or services. If you'll need to expand, discuss when, where, and why.

10. Discuss payout options for the investors.

Some investors want a hands-on role. Some want to put associates on your board of directors. Some don't want to be involved in day-to-day activities at all. All investors want to know when they can get their money back and at what rate of return. Most want out within three to five years. Provide a brief description of options for investors, or at least mention that you're ready to discuss options with any serious prospect.

To dig deeper, buy Write Your Own Business Plan and get 1 month of free access to business planning software Liveplan Premium.

10 Simple Tips to Write a Successful Business Plan

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The Supreme Court Takes Up Homelessness

Can cities make it illegal to live on the streets.

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

From “The New York Times,” I’m Katrin Bennhold. This is “The Daily.”

This morning, we’re taking a much closer look at homelessness in the United States as it reaches a level not seen in the modern era. California —

As the number of homeless people has surged in the US —

More than 653,000, a 12 percent population increase since last year.

The debate over homeless encampments across the country has intensified.

It is not humane to let people live on our streets in tents, use drugs. We are not standing for it anymore.

People have had it. They’re fed up. I’m fed up. People want to see these tents and encampments removed in a compassionate, thoughtful way. And we agree.

With public officials saying they need more tools to address the crisis.

We move from block to block. And every block they say, can’t be here, can’t be here, can’t be here. I don’t know where we’re supposed to go, you know?

And homeless people and their advocates saying those tools are intended to unfairly punish them.

They come and they sweep and they take everything from me, and I can’t get out of the hole I’m in because they keep putting me back in square one.

That debate is now reaching the Supreme Court, which is about to hear arguments in the most significant case on homelessness in decades, about whether cities can make it illegal to be homeless. My colleague Abbie VanSickle on the backstory of that case and its far-reaching implications for cities across the US.

[THEME MUSIC]

It’s Friday, April 19.

So Abbie, you’ve been reporting on this case that has been making waves, Grants Pass versus Johnson, which the Supreme Court is taking up next week. What’s this case about?

So this case is about a small town in Oregon where three homeless people sued the city after they received tickets for sleeping and camping outside. And this case is the latest case that shows this growing tension, especially in states in the West, between people who are homeless and cities who are trying to figure out what to do about this. These cities have seen a sharp increase in homeless encampments in public spaces, especially with people on sidewalks and in parks. And they’ve raised questions about public drug use and other safety issues in these spaces.

And so the question before the justices is really how far a city can go to police homelessness. Can city officials and police use local laws to ban people from laying down outside and sleeping in a public space? Can a city essentially make it illegal to be homeless?

So three homeless people sued the city of Grants Pass, saying it’s not illegal to be homeless, and therefore it’s not illegal to sleep in a public space.

Yes, that’s right. And they weren’t the first people to make this argument. The issue actually started years ago with a case about 500 miles to the East, in Boise, Idaho. And in that case, which is called Martin v. Boise, this man, Robert Martin, who is homeless in Boise, he was charged with a misdemeanor for sleeping in some bushes. And the city of Boise had laws on the books to prohibit public camping.

And Robert Martin and a group of other people who are homeless in the city, they sued the city. And they claimed that the city’s laws violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

And what makes it cruel and unusual?

So their argument was that the city did not have enough sufficient shelter beds for everyone who was homeless in the city. And so they were forced to sleep outside. They said, we have no place to go and that an essential human need is to sleep and we want to be able to lay down on the sidewalk or in an alley or someplace to rest and that their local laws were a violation of Robert Martin and the others’ constitutional rights, that the city is violating the Eighth Amendment by criminalizing the human need to sleep.

And the courts who heard the case agreed with that argument. The courts ruled that the city had violated the Constitution and that the city could not punish people for being involuntarily homeless. And what that meant, the court laid out, is that someone is involuntarily homeless if a city does not have enough adequate shelter beds for the number of people who are homeless in the city.

It does seem like a very important distinction. They’re saying, basically, if you have nowhere else to go, you can’t be punished for sleeping on the street.

Right. That’s what the court was saying in the Martin v. Boise case. And the city of Boise then appealed the case. They asked the Supreme Court to step in and take it on. But the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. So since then, the Martin v. Boise case controls all over the Western parts of the US in what’s called the Ninth Circuit, which includes Oregon where the Grants Pass case originated.

OK. So tell us about Grants Pass, this city at the center of the case and now in front of the Supreme Court. What’s the story there?

Grants Pass is a town in rural Southwestern Oregon. It’s a town of about 38,000 people. It’s a former timber town that now really relies a lot on tourists to go rafting through the river and go wine tasting in the countryside. And it’s a pretty conservative town.

When I did interviews, people talked about having a very strong libertarian streak. And when I talked with people in the town, people said when they were growing up there, it was very rare to see someone who was homeless. It just was not an issue that was talked a lot about in the community. But it did become a big issue about 10 years ago.

People in the community started to get worried about what they saw as an increase in the number of homeless people that they were noticing around town. And it’s unclear whether the problem was growing or whether local officials and residents were worried that it might, whether they were fearing that it might.

But in any case, in 2013, the city council decided to start stepping up enforcement of local ordinances that did things like outlaw camping in public parks or sleeping outside, this series of overlapping local laws that would make it impossible for people to sleep in public spaces in Grants Pass. And at one meeting, one of the former city council members, she said, “the point is to make it uncomfortable enough for them in our city so they will want to move on down the road.”

So it sounds like, at least in Grants Pass, that this is not really about reducing homelessness. It’s about reducing the number of visible homeless people in the town.

Well, I would say that city officials and many local residents would say that the homeless encampments are actually creating real concerns about public safety, that it’s actually creating all kinds of issues for everyone else who lives in Grants Pass. And there are drug issues and mental health issues, and that this is actually bringing a lot of chaos to the city.

OK. So in order to deal with these concerns, you said that they decided to start enforcing these local measures. What does that actually look like on the ground?

So police started handing out tickets in Grants Pass. These were civil tickets, where people would get fines. And if police noticed people doing this enough times, then they could issue them a trespass from a park. And then that would give — for a certain number of days, somebody would be banned from the park. And if police caught them in the park before that time period was up, then the person could face criminal time. They could go to jail.

And homeless people started racking up fines, hundreds of dollars of fines. I talked to a lot of people who were camping in the parks who had racked up these fines over the years. And each one would have multiple tickets they had no way to pay. I talked to people who tried to challenge the tickets, and they had to leave their belongings back in the park. And they would come back to find someone had taken their stuff or their things had been impounded.

So it just seemed to be this cycle that actually was entrenching people more into homelessness. And yet at the same time, none of these people had left Grants Pass.

So they did make it very uncomfortable for homeless people, but it doesn’t seem to be working. People are not leaving.

Right. People are not leaving. And these tickets and fines, it’s something that people have been dealing with for years in Grants Pass. But in 2018, the Martin v. Boise case happens. And not long after that, a group of people in Grants Pass challenged these ordinances, and they used the Boise case to make their argument that just like in Boise, Grants Pass was punishing people for being involuntarily homeless, that this overlapping group of local ordinances in Grants Pass had made it so there is nowhere to put a pillow and blanket on the ground and sleep without being in some kind of violation of a rule. And this group of local homeless people make the argument that everyone in Grants Pass who is homeless is involuntarily homeless.

And you told us earlier that it was basically the lack of available shelter that makes a homeless person involuntarily homeless. So is there a homeless shelter in Grants Pass?

Well, it sort of depends on the standard that you’re using. So there is no public low-barrier shelter that is easy for somebody to just walk in and stay for a night if they need someplace to go. Grants Pass does not have a shelter like that.

There is one shelter in Grants Pass, but it’s a religious shelter, and there are lots of restrictions. I spoke with the head of the shelter who explained the purpose is really to get people back into the workforce. And so they have a 30-day program that’s really designed for that purpose.

And as part of that, people can’t have pets. People are not allowed to smoke. They’re required to attend Christian religious services. And some of the people who I interviewed, who had chronic mental health and physical disabilities, said that they had been turned away or weren’t able to stay there because of the level of needs that they have. And so if you come in with any kind of issue like that, it can be a problem.

That’s a very long list of restrictions. And of course, people are homeless for a lot of very different reasons. It sounds like a lot of these reasons might actually disqualify them from this particular shelter. So when they say they have nowhere else to go, if they’re in Grants Pass, they kind of have a point.

So that’s what the court decided. In 2022, when the courts heard this case, they agreed with the homeless plaintiffs that there’s no low-barrier shelter in Grants Pass and that the religious shelter did not meet the court’s requirements. But the city, who are actually now represented by the same lawyers who argued for Boise, keeps appealing the case. And they appeal up to the Ninth Circuit just as in the Boise case, and the judges there find in favor of the homeless plaintiffs, and they find that Grants Pass’s ordinances are so restrictive that there is no place where someone can lay down and sleep in Grants Pass and that therefore the city has violated the Eighth Amendment and they cannot enforce these ordinances in the way that they have been for years.

So at that point, the court upholds the Boise precedent, and we’re where we were when it all started. But as we know, that’s not the end of the story. Because this case stays in the court system. What happened?

So by this point, the homelessness problem is really exploding throughout the Western part of the US with more visible encampments, and it really becomes a politically divisive issue. And leaders across the political spectrum point to Boise as a root cause of the problem. So when Grants Pass comes along, people saw that case as a way potentially to undo Boise if only they could get it before the Supreme Court.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

We’ll be right back.

Abbie, you just told us that as homeless numbers went up and these homeless encampments really started spreading, it’s no longer just conservatives who want the Supreme Court to revisit the Boise ruling. It’s liberals too.

That’s right. So there’s a really broad group of people who all started pushing for the Supreme Court to take up the Grants Pass case. And they did this by filing briefs to the Supreme Court, laying out their reasoning. And it’s everyone from the liberal governor of California and many progressive liberal cities to some of the most conservative legal groups. And they disagree about their reasoning, but they all are asking the court to clarify how to interpret the Boise decision.

They are saying, essentially, that the Boise decision has been understood in different ways in all different parts of the West and that that is causing confusion and creating all sorts of problems. And they’re blaming that on the Boise case.

It’s interesting, because after everything you told us about these very extreme measures, really, that the city of Grants Pass took against homeless people, it is surprising that these liberal bastions that you’re mentioning are siding with the town in this case.

Just to be clear, they are not saying that they support necessarily the way that Grants Pass or Boise had enforced their laws. But they are saying that the court rulings have tied their hands with this ambiguous decision on how to act.

And what exactly is so ambiguous about the Boise decision? Which if I remember correctly, simply said that if someone is involuntarily homeless, if they’re on the streets because there’s no adequate shelter space available, they can’t be punished for that.

Yeah. So there are a couple of things that are common threads in the cities and the groups that are asking for clarity from the court. And the first thing is that they’re saying, what is adequate shelter? That every homeless person situation is different, so what are cities or places required to provide for people who are homeless? What is the standard that they need to meet?

In order not to sleep on the street.

That’s right. So if the standard is that a city has to have enough beds for everyone who is homeless but certain kinds of shelters or beds wouldn’t qualify, then what are the rules around that? And the second thing is that they’re asking for clarity around what “involuntarily homeless” means. And so in the Boise decision, that meant that someone is involuntarily homeless if there is not enough bed space for them to go to.

But a lot of cities are saying, what about people who don’t want to go into a shelter even if there’s a shelter bed available? If they have a pet or if they are a smoker or if something might prohibit them from going to a shelter, how is the city supposed to weigh that and at what point would they cross a line for the court?

It’s almost a philosophical question. Like, if somebody doesn’t want to be in a shelter, are they still allowed to sleep in a public space?

Yeah. I mean, these are complicated questions that go beyond the Eighth Amendment argument but that a lot of the organizations that have reached out to the court through these friend of the court briefs are asking.

OK. I can see that the unifying element here is that in all these briefs various people from across the spectrum are saying, hello, Supreme Court. We basically need some clarity here. Give us some clarity.

The question that I have is why did the Supreme Court agree to weigh in on Grants Pass after declining to take up Boise?

Well, it’s not possible for us to say for certain because the Supreme Court does not give reasons why it has agreed to hear or to not hear a case. They get thousands of cases a year, and they take up just a few of those, and their deliberations are secret. But we can point to a few things.

One is that the makeup of the court has changed. The court has gained conservative justices in the last few years. This court has not been shy about taking up hot button issues across the spectrum of American society. In this case, the court hasn’t heard a major homelessness case like this.

But I would really point to the sheer number and the range of the people who are petitioning the court to take a look at this case. These are major players in the country who are asking the court for guidance, and the Supreme Court does weigh in on issues of national importance. And the people who are asking for help clearly believe that this is one of those issues.

So let’s start digging into the actual arguments. And maybe let’s start with the city of Grants Pass. What are the central arguments that they’re expected to make before the Supreme Court?

So the city’s arguments turn on this narrow legal issue of whether the Eighth Amendment applies or doesn’t. And they say that it doesn’t. But I actually think that in some ways, that’s not the most helpful way to understanding what Grants Pass is arguing.

What is really at the heart of their argument is that if the court upholds Grants Pass and Boise, that they are tying the hands of Grants Pass and hundreds of other towns and cities to actually act to solve and respond to homelessness. And by that, I mean to solve issues of people camping in the parks but also more broadly of public safety issues, of being able to address problems as they arise in a fluid and flexible way in the varied ways that they’re going to show up in all these different places.

And their argument is if the court accepts the Grants Pass and Boise holdings, that they will be constitutionalizing or freezing in place and limiting all of these governments from acting.

Right. This is essentially the argument being repeated again and again in those briefs that you mentioned earlier, that unless the Supreme Court overturns these decisions, it’s almost impossible for these cities to get the encampments under control.

Yes, that’s right. And they also argue they need to have flexibility in dealing actually with people who are homeless and being able to figure out using a local ordinance to try to convince someone to go to treatment, that they say they need carrots and sticks. They need to be able to use every tool that they can to be able to try to solve this problem.

And how do we make sense of that argument when Grants Pass is clearly not using that many tools to deal with homeless people? For example, it didn’t have shelters, as you mentioned.

So the city’s argument is that this just should not be an Eighth Amendment issue, that this is the wrong way to think about this case, that issues around homelessness and how a city handles it is a policy question. So things like shelter beds or the way that the city is handling their ordinances should really be left up to policymakers and city officials, not to this really broad constitutional argument. And so therefore, the city is likely to focus their argument entirely on this very narrow question.

And how does the other side counter this argument?

The homeless plaintiffs are going to argue that there’s nothing in the lower courts’ decisions that say that cities can’t enforce their laws that, they can’t stop people from littering, that they can’t stop drug use, that they can’t clear encampments if there becomes public safety problems. They’re just saying that a city cannot not provide shelter and then make it illegal for people to lay down and sleep.

So both sides are saying that a city should be able to take action when there’s public disorder as a result of these homeless encampments. But they’re pointing at each other and saying, the way you want to handle homelessness is wrong.

I think everyone in this case agrees that homelessness and the increase in homelessness is bad for everyone. It’s bad for people who are camping in the park. It is bad for the community, that nobody is saying that the current situation is tenable. Everyone is saying there need to be solutions. We need to be able to figure out what to do about homelessness and how to care for people who are homeless.

How do we wrestle with all these problems? It’s just that the way that they think about it couldn’t be further apart.

And what can you tell me about how the Supreme Court is actually expected to rule in this?

There are a number of ways that the justices could decide on this case. They could take a really narrow approach and just focus on Grants Pass and the arguments about those local ordinances. I think that’s somewhat unlikely because they’ve decided to take up this case of national importance.

A ruling in favor of the homeless plaintiffs would mean that they’ve accepted this Eighth Amendment argument, that you cannot criminalize being homeless. And a ruling for the city, every legal expert I’ve talked to has said that would mean an end to Boise and that it would break apart the current state that we’ve been living in for these last several years.

I’m struck by how much this case and our conversation has been about policing homelessness rather than actually addressing the root causes of homelessness. We’re not really talking about, say, the right to shelter or the right to treatment for people who are mentally ill and sleeping on the streets as a result, which is quite a big proportion. And at the end of the day, whatever way the ruling goes, it will be about the visibility of homelessness and not the root causes.

Yeah, I think that’s right. That’s really what’s looming in the background of this case is what impact is it going to have. Will it make things better or worse and for who? And these court cases have really become this talking point for cities and for their leaders, blaming the spike in encampments and the visibility of homelessness on these court decisions. But homelessness, everyone acknowledges, is such a complicated issue.

People have told me in interviews for the story, they’ve blamed increases in homelessness on everything from the pandemic to forest fires to skyrocketing housing costs in the West Coast, and that the role that Boise and now Grants Pass play in this has always been a little hard to pin down. And if the Supreme Court overturns those cases, then we’ll really see whether they were the obstacle that political leaders said that they were. And if these cases fall, it remains to be seen whether cities do try to find all these creative solutions with housing and services to try to help people who are homeless or whether they once again fall back on just sending people to jail.

Abbie, thank you very much.

Thank you so much.

Here’s what else you need to know today. Early on Friday, Israel attacked a military base in Central Iran. The explosion came less than a week after Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend and was part of a cycle of retaliation that has brought the shadow war between the two countries out in the open. The scale and method of Friday’s attack remained unclear, and the initial reaction in both Israel and Iran was to downplay its significance. World leaders have urged both sides to exercise restraint in order to avoid sparking a broader war in the region.

And 12 New Yorkers have been selected to decide Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, clearing the way for opening statements to begin as early as Monday. Seven new jurors were added in short order on Thursday afternoon, hours after two others who had already been picked were abruptly excused.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment made to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign. If the jury convicts him, he faces up to four years in prison. Finally —

This is the New York Police Department.

The New York Police Department said it took at least 108 protesters into custody at Columbia University after University officials called the police to respond to a pro-Palestinian demonstration and dismantle a tent encampment.

We’re supporting Palestine. We’re supporting Palestine. 1, 2, 3, 4.

The crackdown prompted more students to vow that demonstrations would continue, expressing outrage at both the roundup of the student protesters and the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.

Free, free Palestine.

Today’s episode was produced by Olivia Natt, Stella Tan, and Eric Krupke with help from Rachelle Bonja. It was edited by Liz Baylen, fact checked by Susan Lee, contains original music by Will Reid Pat McCusker Dan Powell and Diane Wong and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Katrin Bennhold. See you on Monday.

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  • April 19, 2024   •   30:42 The Supreme Court Takes Up Homelessness
  • April 18, 2024   •   30:07 The Opening Days of Trump’s First Criminal Trial
  • April 17, 2024   •   24:52 Are ‘Forever Chemicals’ a Forever Problem?
  • April 16, 2024   •   29:29 A.I.’s Original Sin
  • April 15, 2024   •   24:07 Iran’s Unprecedented Attack on Israel
  • April 14, 2024   •   46:17 The Sunday Read: ‘What I Saw Working at The National Enquirer During Donald Trump’s Rise’
  • April 12, 2024   •   34:23 How One Family Lost $900,000 in a Timeshare Scam
  • April 11, 2024   •   28:39 The Staggering Success of Trump’s Trial Delay Tactics
  • April 10, 2024   •   22:49 Trump’s Abortion Dilemma
  • April 9, 2024   •   30:48 How Tesla Planted the Seeds for Its Own Potential Downfall
  • April 8, 2024   •   30:28 The Eclipse Chaser
  • April 7, 2024 The Sunday Read: ‘What Deathbed Visions Teach Us About Living’

Hosted by Katrin Bennhold

Featuring Abbie VanSickle

Produced by Olivia Natt ,  Stella Tan ,  Eric Krupke and Rachelle Bonja

Edited by Liz O. Baylen

Original music by Will Reid ,  Pat McCusker ,  Dan Powell and Diane Wong

Engineered by Chris Wood

Listen and follow The Daily Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

Debates over homeless encampments in the United States have intensified as their number has surged. To tackle the problem, some cities have enforced bans on public camping.

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments about whether such actions are legal, Abbie VanSickle, who covers the court for The Times, discusses the case and its far-reaching implications.

On today’s episode

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Abbie VanSickle , a Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times.

A community officer stands and talks to three people standing opposite to him outside a tent in a grassy area.

Background reading

A ruling in the case could help determine how states, particularly those in the West, grapple with a rising homelessness crisis .

In a rare alliance, Democrats and Republicans are seeking legal power to clear homeless camps .

There are a lot of ways to listen to The Daily. Here’s how.

We aim to make transcripts available the next workday after an episode’s publication. You can find them at the top of the page.

Fact-checking by Susan Lee .

The Daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Dan Powell, Sydney Harper, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens, Rowan Niemisto, Jody Becker, Rikki Novetsky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reid, Carlos Prieto, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexie Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Lanman, Shannon Lin, Diane Wong, Devon Taylor, Alyssa Moxley, Summer Thomad, Olivia Natt, Daniel Ramirez and Brendan Klinkenberg.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Paula Szuchman, Lisa Tobin, Larissa Anderson, Julia Simon, Sofia Milan, Mahima Chablani, Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Jeffrey Miranda, Renan Borelli, Maddy Masiello, Isabella Anderson and Nina Lassam.

Katrin Bennhold is the Berlin bureau chief. A former Nieman fellow at Harvard University, she previously reported from London and Paris, covering a range of topics from the rise of populism to gender. More about Katrin Bennhold

Abbie VanSickle covers the United States Supreme Court for The Times. She is a lawyer and has an extensive background in investigative reporting. More about Abbie VanSickle

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